The faithlessness of Sleeplessness

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Sleeping babies“Leanness of body and soul may go together.”

A quote from the puritan theologian, John Owen, highlights the often under emphasized holy care we are to take of our bodies. Many of us do not see the body in such a way. Maybe it comes from an era and theology that emphasized physical as bad and spiritual as good. Either way, care of our bodies is reflective of the care given our souls.

Sleep is the recharging of the mind and body in such a way that without it your entire person changes. Sleep thieves are many, be it stress or health related, many of these can be directly traceable to a poor theology of the body. Most research suggest that each of our sleep needs are different, but there are severally adverse effects from not having those needs met.

“Trust keeps us from turning the mental lights out.”

Recently having taken on some major life changes, I found my sleep patterns were being obliterated. I was up late. I was up several times during the night, and I began feeling the effects pretty quickly. I was unable to give my night to God because I had never given my day to Him.

“Sleep is the foundation of the bodies proper function.”

If we are going to claim that Jesus was accurate in calling our bodies a gift and a temple of the Spirit of God, we must take seriously how we treat and interact with our bodies. A growing connection between the poor care of our bodies and the inadvertent misunderstanding of sleep is in sleep apnea. Sleep apnea and obesity are inextricably and undeniably linked, and obesity is a growing western epidemic and the church is largely missing from the conversation.

“We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to act like we believe what we believe.”

Most of us are not going to be professional athletes or models, but we have to begin to take seriously the breadth of sanctification that cannot and does not exclude our bodies…

1 Corinthians 6:20

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

 

 

Why humanity is incapable of vengence

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Peace“It is illogical to fight hurt with hurt, for in one voice you condemn hurt, while simultaneously validating it.”

We cannot think that our morality and logical consistency is intact when we seek the hurt of those who are hurting others as a response to that hurt.

In other words; I think you’re hurting me, and hurting me is wrong. In response, I seek your hurt rather than mine therefor lending validity to the reality the it wasn’t hurting people that was wrong, it was simply you hurting me that was wrong. That lifts subjective truth into the realm of objective truth and causes it to deteriorate.

In Matthew’s gospel, he records these words of Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

A back hand slap is in view here. In turning the other cheek would require the slapper to strike with a hand that would have never been used, as it would be unclean. In this, shame is allowed to be brought on the striker. Allowing God to be God in the midst of deep hurt is extremely difficult but necessary for a life of peace.

Only God can strike with clean hands and without shame…

 

A life lived out of control

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ControlYour heart, a pear shaped muscle in the middle of your chest, generally pumps up to 2000 gallons of blood a day at 100,000 beats per day and survives off of snickers, and you did not control one of those beats.

“The more you think you are in ultimate control, the more devastated you will be when you realize you are not.”

You and I are not in ultimate control. The onset of stress, anxiety, and despair are directly related to the reality that you and I often think we are in ultimate control. With a clenched fist we hold on to our life until we release our grip to find nothing in our palm but sweat.

“Acting like you are not in control.”

So what does a life out of control look like? It looks like prayer when things are going good and bad. It looks like leaning into knowing the one true God, Jesus, that is in control. It looks like being satisfied when life goes wrong because we believe and understand that it is for our benefit. Admittedly, that is easier said than done, but God’s truth is not subject to the weight of life’s situations, no matter how bad.

“The greatest source of relief in life is realizing you are not in control, but that you can know and be loved by the one who is.”

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever He wishes.

This place is not Rome, not even close

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Rome“This place is not Rome. Not even close.”

If you know just a little of Roman history and it’s intersection with Christianity, you have to wonder how Christianity actually survived into the 2nd century. Yet, given the lasting reality of Christianity, we often stand quivering in the changing face of contemporary society and Christianity’s future.

“God continually calls us to remember in order to fuel our hope.”

Imagine a contemporary world in which the major leaders of Christianity were openly murdered. Where the near destruction of an empire’s capital was blamed on this young sect of Judaism, and a world in which we were discriminated against economically and socially that eventually led to wide-spread murder of Christians. You’d certainly think Christianity to be doomed, right? Wrong. Eventually, not even the world’s preeminent empire could destroy what Jesus set in motion.

“Yet, here we are.”

The truth of Christ lives on in every growing breath of Christianity some 2000 years after the world’s empire sought to squash us out, yet here we are, and we will always be. If we ever cease to be, it would be equivalent to the resurrection having never occurred because it would render it null and void. We will always thrive, though seasons of persecution come, we must trust that Christ will actively love his church in their thriving.

“Nothing can thwart the Kingdom of God while our eternal King graces the throne.”

Reclaiming biblical literacy

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Dumb“Humanity is only as shallow as the God it knows and serves.”

Two primary misconceptions perpetuate comparative sermons of later years and today; the idea that people need to know what the Bible means for them today, quite often at the expense of what it meant in its’ time, and the other is that depth is for seminaries. The problem is that neither the preacher nor those listening can have an accurate idea of how it applies to their lives and reality today unless they know what was meant in the time it was written and the reality that seminaries exist because the church began outsourcing biblical depth.

“In the smartest age ever, are people too dumb to get the complexity of the Bible.”

We generally think no, yet just as many would not practically teach in such a way as to mine the depths of scripture. It’s important to see a stark difference between teaching that occurred in the synagogues, be it Judaism or Christianity, and what we are encouraged to produce today. For Judaism, the synagogue primarily served as a house of prayer, a source of studying God’s word, and a place to gather in community. Sabbath teaching would be focused in on a history of Israel and their expectant future. For Christianity, the teaching was largely similar, but Jesus Christ was at the center of explanation. Make no mistake, it was complex, at least according to our contemporary standards.

“How people feel is relative to the God they know and serve, so to impact people is to explain in-depth their God.”

 

Losing my religion

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Losing“That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight/Losing my religion”.

These 1991 lyrics from the alternative band R.E.M, depict a southern phrase “Losing my religion” to make sense of the tension between what we desire and what we’ve been told are acceptable desires. In a sense, that’s me hiding from the world trying to make sense of the passions that are in contrast to how I’ve been told and driven to behave. The contrast of the first two lines implies a backing into the corner by the cultural standards, via the spotlight.

“The current cultural atmosphere is dying for us to lose our religion.”

Or better yet, our distinction. God and spirituality are becoming much more readily accepted in circles it had previously been cast out as rubbish. I dare say it’s even trendy to believe in God or be spiritual. The current battle cry sounds a little like, “Pray to and worship whatever you call God”. Guess what, if you determine it’s Godness, you are more God than the God you call God. When we lack the intellectual courage to work that out to it’s logical conclusion, we miss the reality that if God’s Godness depends on human verification then by definition humanity is more God than God. Why would we not simply be honest and openly worship ourselves? Well, many do, they are just disingenuous about it.

“Let’s ALL have the courage to live like we believe what we believe.”

No one lives like an atheist. Atheists hate to hear this, but it is true. Why is it that Christianity has to allow deep and pervasive challenges to our world view without the expectation of reciprocal challenges. The atheist has no moral standard outside of the individual or group, so they cannot make sense or stand on any morality position regarding Nazi’s, homelessness, rape, child abuse or the like. Because they’re forcing their world view onto the offender, and it’s rather obvious from the offender’s actions that they are living with a different standard that by the atheist own world view has to be accepted as individual truths. No one lives as if truth were subjective, no one. The world should be appalled and terrified of the atheist claim while subsequently being in bewilderment at it’s illogical and irrational impracticality. What they claim of Christianity’s irrationality is their biggest offense.

“To maintain Christianity the Christian must maintain the uniqueness of Losing my religionChristianity.”

How is Christianity different? The answer lies in what Jesus says is the anchor of true and eternal life, that Jesus is God and has risen from the grave in stark declaration of such claims. Paul said that a Godless ressurectionless Christianity is a sham, and it still is. I enjoy, as Jesus did, being around a variety of people like and dislike me, but I do not loose my uniqueness. I’m a Christian, and that means I believe in a God that became a man to die in my place and rose again to offer validation to the world. Contrary to popular belief, I can retain that distinction with loving confidence that allows me to continue and maintain caring, loving, and helping relationships with those not sharing my distinctions.

Being distinct and kind are not mutually exclusive, and everyone else is living out this claim, but pay close attention, they are simultaneously and unwittingly claiming that Christianity must lose it’s uniqueness in order to care for the world. When it is our very uniqueness that drives us to care for the world more feverously than any…

Ministry folks: How to insure your family hates church

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1Bored- Smiling in public, frowning at home:

I suppose I have the phony political smile in mind. Close the gap between who you are at home and in ministry, and close it fast. Repent of the difference and ask for your family to forgive you. Open repentance works well to create a do-over expectation for you and those around you.

2- Make the worlds most exciting story, boring:

If your kids think you’re boring, so does everyone else, but they just aren’t telling you. Your kids will tell you, ask them. You are their quick track to knowing the Bible. You make it boring and methodical, and they will take that with them into the rest of their lives.

3- Be unimaginably stressed out by doing “God’s work”:

My son told me on the way to school recently that he’s planning on being a police officer, and that is going to be much harder than what I do. After asking him what he thinks I do, he says, “You talk and pray, how hard is that”. I suppose I agree. I do “Talk” and “Pray”. Here’s the insider info. He said “pray” because I pray for them before they leave for school. I pray for them before they go to sleep. I pray for them throughout the day, and that’s just them. He recognized that I do a lot of praying. My guess is not everyone in ministry would have a child say that.

The less you pray, the more you’ll work. Sounds weird, but it’s true.

4- Make everyone more important than them:Bored 2

Think about how God designed life to show relational importance. Your family is the closest to ground zero and gets the most damage when you struggle in ministry. If you drop everything for everyone, except your family, you send a loud and clear message that your family is low priority. Ultimately, you’re no different than the career oriented family sacrificer in any other profession. Ministry is not a profession, it’s a calling. If it’s primarily a profession to you, you will eventually act like it.

5- Go to church non-stop:

But the puritans went to church everyday, right? Why can’t we keep Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Tuesday/Thursday Bible group times. Wow, that wears me out just typing it. Keep ministry simple. On Sunday, worship together, Monday through Saturday, live together. Not in the same house or anything. Just do normal natural life together.

If ministry is like constant grinding gears for you, you’re missing something. That doesn’t mean you should walk away, but it might. Realize God is in control, He loves you, and He didn’t give you this life to be miserable or to make others miserable.

My son was right, I just talk and pray, but I do pray. The quickest way to relieve the pressure of ministry is to be the boldest and most often prayer in the room.

We all have some explaining to do

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AtheistI think at times the atheistic and agnostic stances falsely believe they have risen above having to give an accounting for the reality around us. I am not so certain any of us are off the hook from the difficult questions of life.

“Prove that God exists.”

That’s the typical request to which it may be helpful to have our atheistic and agnostic friends work on a similar problem while we are thinking that one through. Prove that God does not exist. Neither of us live apart from faith.

“How do you know truth?”

That may be the question we are forgetting to have our atheistic and agnostic friends work through. As a Christian, Jesus is my standard of overarching truth. More specifically what the Bible has captured and retained for us regarding Jesus. My atheist and agnostic friends have yet to come up with a standard of truth outside of themselves.

If you are your own truth standard, then so is Joe, Bobby, Chris, Susan, and every other human, and at the moment you say truth is subjective, you have just used an objective overarching truth to do that. Which denies the atheist and agnostics entire system of knowing things. Can you keep making truth claims and not actually believe in truth?

I have agnostic and atheistic friends that are some of the best folks I know, but I am not so convinced that I am the only one with some explaining to do…

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

 

Conversation with my enemy – the apologetic of love

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thCA3HKJ0JCold and wet, running from a rain storm on my motorcycle making coming home from the cities, a break was in order. Pulling off the interstate onto the back roads of a small town south of the cities, I stopped at a local downtown business I’d been eyeing for some time, but this time I felt extremely compelled to stop in. Shopping around a bit, I wanted to chat with the seemingly Iraqi owner to kill some time and delay my return to the elements, and chat we did.

To my surprise, he’d given me several free items from his store, and the gracious interaction he displayed with each entering customer amazed me to the point that I had to ask him what compels him to be that way. He already knew I was a Christian, and his seamless response to that question shocked me. He said, “Because I’m Muslim you know.”

He explained the Koran doesn’t allow for any living thing to be killed, especially humans. Money is why they do it, he explained. It’s not about religion, it’s about money. They just happen to be Muslim and that is used against them. They prey on the vulnerable, offer them 50 to 100 thousand dollars to blow something up, and they take it. It is about oil. Al-Qaida knows if they create a volatile environment, oil prices will rise and wreck the American economy. It all comes down to oil and money. It has less to do with religion, but that’s not what we are being led to believe.

“The middle east is full of Christians”! My immediate reaction was, “What”. Yea, he said, there are thousands of Christians. As he talked more about the recent unrest and fleeing of so many Christians in the area, he explained that many have taken refuge with local Muslim families, including his family. thCACZJPHO

“Saddam was bad, but it is much worse now. He said now everyone has guns, knives, and all sorts of weapons. Under Saddam, if you were caught with anything like that, you would be in prison for quite a while. As for really bad guys, if they were caught, they would be gone forever. Because of the nature of the Middle East it requires a strong and sometimes harsh leader, like Saddam. What’s happening now, is a nightmare.”

I couldn’t be more thankful for this interaction. Do I still believe that Jesus was God? Yea, I do. Does he? No, he does not. Do I want him to believe that too? Yea, I do, but for that one rainy day in August, we both began a dialogue on the common ground that life is precious and must be cherished…

 

Jesus was insane?

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INsane“Can you repeat that back to me?”

That used to be my tag line after correcting one of my children, who had made a practice of hearing what she wanted to hear. We would rinse and repeat my instruction several times until, viola, she got it.

“Self absorption causes us to hear what we want and not what is being communicated.”

We think selfishness is a bad thing, but not entirely. A healthy self-centeredness is necessary for survival. When you are on an air plane and the safety instructions are given, who is asked to put on the mask on first? You! You are no good to anyone starved of oxygen, when you are just as starved. We are naturally inclined to self-preservation, but it cannot be at the expense of the rest of the world, who in-fact is struggling through their own self-preservation. Self absorption has its bounds.

“Unhealthy self-centeredness sees you as the constant center.”

An unhealthy self-centeredness is one that not only puts a mask on as the plane is Insane 2loosing cabin pressure, but gets furious because everyone else in the plane has not stopped what they are doing to help them as well. We miss the reality that we cannot fully appreciate ourselves until we understand the community of ourselves. The reality of Jesus’ spirit in His people today is to create just that type of healthy community.

“Insanity is believing you are the exception without believing in exceptions.”

Is it not interesting that someone could think Jesus was insane without giving any entertainingly mental space for the possibility that they themselves could be insane. Once, when He taught that He was the only way to God (John 10), His hearers concluded that this guy is nuts. Interestingly enough, the very Israelite group that believed and voiced that made it a practice to look at themselves as the only way to God (Ex. 4:22) and that was not a problem for them.

At the end of the day, we cannot live outside of community and we cannot survive within an unhealthy community…

“Many of them were saying ‘He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” – John 10:22

 

How to riot like God’s – The voices we miss in Ferguson

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th9A6X2Y3R

History offers many examples of how best to express our corporate disgust and anger over issues that should have ended differently. While there are many good examples, we often hear only of the bad ones, for obvious reasons. Here are three lessons, rules if you will, to guide your passions in protest, from three of the worlds most well-known protesters:

1- “I cannot teach you violence, as I myself do not believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your head before anyone, even at the cost of your own life.” – Gandhi

Gandhi was willing to die for what was right, but he was not willing to kill.

2- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK was willing to love in the face of hate.

3- “What good is it to simply love those who love you back? We are set apart by loving in the face of persecution and hate.” – Jesus (Luke 6:32)

Jesus knew hate could only destroy us, but love could never destroy or be destroyed.

The world misses these men. Now we need men across the ethnic and national spectrum with the courage to stand between the people’s passions and the institution’s actions, and speak calm wisdom into both…

 

 

Embracing the Scarlet Sadness

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ScarletWe’re terrified of sadness. Sadness is the exception in life, so we think. We’ve done our best to medicate, sooth, council, and psychoanalyze it away, yet it persists. The scarlet letter hidden deep within us impacts the world in untold ways every single day.

“Could sadness be necessary for our mental health?”

It may be time for the world to embrace sadness as normal and necessary. In sadness we look full in the face of our limitations. What we desire doesn’t seem to marry well with what is reality. Exclusive and constant happiness is atrocious in the face of the world we live in. Sadness is necessary and normal and has to be embraced and welcomed.

“Community disperses the weight of sadness.”

Sadness sits like a mountain of bricks on the soul. It cannot be escaped for long, no matter the worlds device. You must stop, turn, and embrace your scarlet sadness and all its weight, a weight that must be dispersed through many souls creating a wider surface, or the one soul crushes.

38 reasons Eric Kaler is right

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SOiuxIt’s startling how easily we dismiss the pain of others. Whether its a personal loss, a family loss, or a loss that impacts an entire group of people, we have this un-empathetic point in which we proclaim, “Just get over it”. I’ve seen this happen with those who grieve the lost parents, children, friends, spouses and the like.

This unsympathetic reality extends to entire groups as well, and has recently made it’s way to the University of Minnesota. University president, Eric Kaler, and US Representative, Betty McCollum, are sending a message to the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings upcoming game verses the Washington Redskins approaches. They’ve strongly opposed the propagation of the nickname “Redskin”, at least while the team visits Minnesota. [Read HERE]

There may be no better place to take such a stand than right here in the Twin Cities. I’m not certain that December 26th, 1862, and the execution of 38 Dakota Indians in the largest mass execution in American history, can be or should be so easily looked over. It was reported that skin was taken from the executed Dakota Indians and sold in neighboring areas just before the bodies were dumped in a trench. [Read HERE]

Let’s not be fooled by all the “Treaty” talk. Land being given up was never an option, and I think Native American tribal leaders got that. It was more an issue of what the American government was offering; “We take most of your land, and give you a little in return, or we take all your land and give you nothing in return”. Treaties were no more than feel good, if you will. Imagine invaders came into you’re home and demanded logging at gun point. They say we’ll pay you $2 dollars a day to occupy most of the house, or we’ll bury you out back and take all the house. You take the $2, and for the record, that is similarly grossly miss undervaluing the cost of daily lodging.

We all live with an unalterable past, but we do have the ability and obligation to honestly reflect on the past in order to correct the future. This seems like a very necessary correcting step for Minnesota…

Is supporting Israel equavalent to supporting Jesus?

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SonYou cannot love God and not support Israel, right? How did supporting Israel, no matter how many children and families (Here & Here) they appear to purposefully target, become part and parcel of American Theology? The answer isn’t a reversal and wholesale abandonment of supporting Israel, that’s just as unhelpful and inconsistent.

“The answer is seeing Jesus as Jesus and Israel as Israel.”

This unashamed and relentless support is a long and sorted tale full of passionate polarizations, but it has its roots in fragmented and blurred understandings of the identities of both Jesus and Israel. The consequences of not seeing Jesus as the true revelation of God to the world and most specifically the fulfillment of the existence of Israel is deep and far-reaching and fosters this odd equivalence between Jesus and Israel that simply does not exist. It creates a bizarre Christo-political environment that is theologically fractured and incapable of making sense of our nations true foreign political identity.

and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:17

Just a chapter before, Matthew explained that Hos. 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”, was truly fulfilled in Jesus. All the Gospels are making the case that Jesus is the true, faithful, pleasing, and obedient Adam and Israel. God is proclaiming His pleasure in Jesus at the expense and reality of His displeasure with Israel who was also and firstly known to be God’s son (Ex. 4:22). The entire Old Testament is full of stories wherein the Older son (Israel) gives way to the younger son (Jesus), Ishmael vs. Isaac – Esau vs. Jacob – Reuben vs. Joseph – Joseph vs. Benjamin – Eliab vs. David, and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Before jumping to one more Christo-political proclamation read these: (Here)

If Jesus isn’t the full summation of God speaking, then the door is wide open for many things to fill that vacuum…

 

 

Why are Christians so weird?

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WeirdI’m not sure. I’m also not sure we’re the only ones, either. I’ve come across my fair share of bizarre humanists and atheists too. I’m a Christian and I find myself asking that more and more. Recently, while watching an extremely popular and acclaimed rocker expound upon his faith in an interview designed to dig deep, I’m struck by the ever viral nature of superstar Christianity. Not that it exists, rather that we’re surprised it does. Why are we so surprised when countless athletes, film makers, politicians, and CEO’s profess belief in and a life that follows Jesus. Let’s be honest, most people’s first thoughts are that they must have a diluted faith, or that they don’t believe in Jesus like I do. We may even explain it away as “Oh, they’re just part of this or that faith tradition”. I think at the heart of the issue is some misguided ember of Christianity that demands we be bizarre and disconnected from the world to follow Jesus.

We just cannot quite make sense of being Christian and being normal. Being Christian means I don’t drink, smoke, say swear words, or play sports on Sundays. I listen only to the 20-year-old Christian music that still happens to be playing on Christian radio as if it were just recorded. I wear Christian cloths and speak Christianese. I pray before every meal, do devotion in the morning and at night, and never miss church. I never lose my temper, talk bad about others, or get aggravated at trivial things. To top the list off, I don’t hangout with anyone who does these things either. I’m sure many of us could add to this list. I think we are fairly certain that you cannot do all that, be famously popular, and be a Christian, so when we see it, it’s like looking into the woods and spotting bigfoot. We are intrigued and terrified all at the same time, but we cannot turn away and we must run and tell others.

Recently, my wife was asked by a rather entrenched God skeptic, or so you might think based on the standard of “normal” Christian I gave above, to prove God. He didn’t want some “preacher” answer, as he stated it. He wanted her to prove God’s existence in one sentence. A one liner. A tweet, if you will. We knew him and he knew us, and yet he came to her for a real life normal answer. Why? I believe he was amazed, in a sense, that we were so normal and in love with life while maintaining our deep love for Jesus.

I don’t love life and Jesus, I love life because of Jesus, and that makes me a little less weird…. a little.

 

What is the best revenge?

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RevengeSettling the score, righting the wrong, serving up “just” desserts. Sweet revenge, right? Most people have been in a situation that could warrant a little revenge. The mechanics of revenge are divine though, and that’s precisely why we’re incapable of accurate vengeance. Revenge assumes you are innocent, the other person is guilty, and you know what they deserve. God knows we are all guilty at some level; as such, we have the inability to quantify another’s guilt to the extent that we exact the ideal retribution. We also generally have mistaken motives as our end goal, so saying something like “well, they’ll get there’s” is still misunderstanding vengeance. God avenges in a way that benefits all, including the one receiving His vengeance. Because we are not God, we have an inability to avenge correctly, and even if we did stumble upon the right mode of vengeance, it would be negated for the sheer fact that one needing vengeance cannot also be the one avenging. Besides, have you ever tried avenging, loving, and forgiving all at the same time. It’s like breathing out your nose and swallowing at the same time. It’s impossible for us, but not for God. The best vengeance in most situations is forgiving, realizing there is much more to the story that you probably don’t know.

Romans 9:12-21 helps put our vengeance in its place, which frees us to be human and God to be God. Mixing those up is a disaster…

Techno Crack – Embracing technology

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PhoneWe live in the smart world that can often out smart us. You have to approach this issue realizing that humans will find a way to abuse anything. The easiest fix for abuse is to just stop using. That’s a pretty good strategy for Meth but not for over-eating. Extremes are general poorly thought out and simplistically juvenile, yet we continue to hear extreme solutions to our abuse of technology framed in a way that demands we just trash all technology. History is rich with these polarizing solutions. It rarely works, and often only works to divide people more than actually achieving its attempt at bringing people together.

I’ve met people camped nicely in these extremes that, as an example, don’t take pictures of events so they can “be in the moment”. Guess what, you can actually do both. You can soak in the splendor of the moment, and then you can take a picture for lasting memories. Sounds crazy, I know.

Do people abuse outlets like social media, you bet. Does that mean they should abandon this layer of communicating with the world? No. My oldest daughter can be caught often looking down to busy herself on her phone. Does that mean she’s not hanging out with her friends and family in a classic and intimate way, of course not, but many in the extreme corners would lead us to believe the world is one step away from forgetting what a human looks, sounds, and feels like.

In a recent video over simplifying the issue, the video over exaggerates the issue, pulls at your heart-strings, and ends with the person simply turning off their cell phone and leaving it at home. It’s just that simple, right? Wrong. Pick up your phone like grown ups in case someone needs to get in touch with you, and be wise about when and when not to use it. It’s that simple, right? Yes. We are actually going to have to think things through, situation by situation and use wisdom to navigate our ever-changing world, not extremes.

Use technology as a layer to make life more connected and easier, not less connected and complicated.

My beautiful pain – Slumdog Theologian

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PossibleThe cold greasy ridged taste of a pistol’s barrel isn’t easily forgotten. That hallway was never darker as I slumped over weeping and alone with a .380 lodged between my teeth and my finger on the trigger? The crumbling of my atypical American childhood was at an end. I was plunged into a world drastically separated from the world I was supposed to be from. I wasn’t suppose to be raised by a single mother pulling two shifts so we didn’t starve. I wasn’t suppose to have to hide my shoes under my desk because they were from family dollar. I wasn’t suppose to be one of the only white kids living in our low-income housing apartment smashing penny’s into quarter sizes so we could play video games. I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping on couches after a failed attempt at life in California. I wasn’t suppose to be a lot of things I have little comfort discussing.

I wasn’t supposed to make a six figure salary in the business world, but I did. I’m not suppose to have been married once for 15 years with three beautiful children, but I am. I’m not suppose to be educated and nearly finished with two Master’s degrees, but I am. I’m certainly not suppose to have turned my pain into a work of art to pour into others struggling as well, but I do. The kid that was a side-show to most, isn’t suppose to be a pastor and theologian either, but I am. I’m not suppose to give the credit to Jesus, but I just did.

Jesus doesn’t make you successful, He redefines success and keeps you from being a quitter.

Jesus-less Christianity

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Hide“The two goals of reading your bible are finding Jesus and finding yourself. In that order.”

Imagine how ridiculous the first person to realize Jesus was missing must have felt. Silently they must have thought to themselves, “You know, I haven’t seen Jesus in a while.” Then the moment most people dread, being the first person to pull the fire alarm. Imagine the other chump that thought about it and just assumed, “He surely has to be around here somewhere, right”.

“Well, has anybody seen Jesus?”

I feel sort of like the caravan of pilgrims making our way home only to realize we’ve forgotten Jesus. We’ve no shortage of bible “scholars” telling us what this and that verse means. Thousands of books, speakers, sermons, resources, churches, leaders, and regular people just like you and I regularly engage with the bible. In all of this, have we gone back to the temple and forgotten what we came back for? Oh yea, to find Jesus.

“Jesus said, the bible is all about Him.”

But we typically preach, counsel, encourage, argue, and lead as if Jesus actually said, “This is all about us”. When you read the bible, are you looking for Jesus or a band-aid to your emotional stability? Once you find Him, you’ll typically learn a lot about yourself, but you aren’t looking for you. I think Jesus said it best:

John 5:46: “If you believed Moses, you would have believed me, for he wrote about me.”

Luke 24:27, 44-47: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Christ explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”

Paul got it:

Col. 2:16-17: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day, things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Herein lies the wrong way in looking at the bible. When we see verses like Col. 2:16-17, we say, “See, I can drink and eat whatever I want”. That verse, as do all of them, bares the weighty identity of Christ not you and I. Paul means for us to realize that all these foodie issues for Israel were to point to Christ, and once Christ has come, they are fulfilled in their meaning. In a sense they have no more meaning. That’s why people were not to judge according to this old dietary issues. They existed to point to Christ. Now Christ exists, so no more need for the road signs when you’ve reached your destination. Coming to the bible with this skewed motive will cause you to confuse your identity with that of Jesus’, causing the weight of the world and it’s problems to crush you even harder.

“Like so long ago, we are still simply looking for Jesus.”

Once we attend to making sure we are looking for Jesus as we come to the bible, we will find that He will attend to our needs in ways that only He can.

 

 

 

 

 

We’re more educated, but are we more smarter?

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smart1Americans are educated, or at least much more than they once were and much more than the rest of the world, at least quantitatively. Are we smarter? I guess you really have to define “educated” and “smarter”, either way, I’m not convinced we are getting a good return on our investment of time and money. Has anyone stopped to ask how we should define “smart” and who is currently defining it?

“Smart is the ability to ask as much as answer.”

We could pretend that we aren’t all subject to the flaws in higher education but we are, and this is a game we all have to play at some level. We don’t, however, have to remain dumb and in debt. There are no dumb questions right? Wrong, there are tons of dumb questions, but at least they are being asked. Don’t stop questioning. When we stop questioning, we stop innovating. When we stop questioning it’s the equivalent of inhaling and the inhaling again. Smart is the combination of inhaling and exhaling. Smart is breathing the breath of asking and answering.

“Questioning is not always excepted.”

Warning!! Questioning can cause a lot of answer people to get real uncomfortable real quick. The one lesson I’ve learned and continue to learn is the best question is often met with great resistance. A great statement can be explained away, but a great question seems to multiply in the mind. Questions crack comfortable answers wide open. Leverage your overpriced education by learning how to ask for better answers that lead to better questions.

Competetion and the Kingdom

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pictures-of-gladiators2I’m not convinced the Kingdom should compete against itself, but I do believe it should be competing with itself. Just the other day someone asked me what I thought about competition. Well, all things being equal, it largely depends on the competitors. You cannot really say competition is good or bad, you have to say there are good competitor’s and bad ones. Competition is a given. Whether it’s the business world, education, sports, siblings, coworkers or the like, it all comes down to who’s playing the game. Two people driving to achieve, that find their identity in success, will certainly be devastated when success is not achieved, and moreover they will sacrifice ever ounce of integrity to achieve it. Someone whose identity is not wrapped up in the temporal things of life can compete with joy and honor. Win or lose, this person may be happy or sad, but never are they devastated and rarely will they sacrifice sound integrity to achieve it.

“If you’re succeeding more than failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

What about the church? I haven’t had too many original ideas myself. I generally develop ideas from being involved in the world around me. Someone does something amazing, well, I want to do that too, and there is no doubt I work through what could be done better by watching others. We may be terrified of competition in the church because we are terrified of discovering a side of us that we are not comfortable with. A side that tries hard and fails miserably. Heaven forbid we realize through failure that we just aren’t as good as the church across town at this or that. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve failed completely, but I can tell you that I’m still not devastated to the point of no longer trying. The church often mistakes competition for how many are in my building. That is the definition of competing against itself. The question the church should be asking is how many are in the Kingdom. That is the essence of competing with itself and will create a spirit of healthy competition that allows for growth, learning, and partnerships between churches and denominations.

Being remembered

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th7ZCSTVS0How would you like to be remembered? To often this is a question that’s never asked or asked way to late. While we are certainly prone to remembering the negative of a person while they live and the positive once they’ve passed, we do have the ability to affect how we are remembered.

“Who you are today, will be tomorrows memory.”

Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered as a great spouse, friend, parent, grandparent, and the like, what most people do not momentarily grasp is the reality they are building their legacy each and every day. With each interaction we build our legacy, and in the end, who you were is probably truly who you were. I’ve met fathers that might as well have left their families years ago. Though they are there, they are not there at all, and that is true for spouses, parents, and the rest.

“A positive legacy is on purpose.”

Take the moments of life seriously enough to realize legacy is something you don’t just manufacture at the end, it is, at the end of the day, the reality of who you were. We too often see ourselves much more heroic than we really were. Who we were day by day etches into the hearts of those around us, even if we were nothing at all that etches just as deeply.

“Be actively and joyfully present in the world around you.”

The frame of worship

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thTK9UKH5YAs a church starter, I’ve spent many hours thinking through the nuts and bolts of church life that I spent most of my life taking for granted. Things I thought just happened. I know now they don’t “just happen”. One of the first questions that I kept coming back to regarding gathering on Sundays was “what are we doing here”. I mean, why do we even gather at all. I hadn’t asked that question to create some new space at some new time, rather to really challenge myself to have an answer for myself and those who would one day be there with me.

Everyday of my life, I have to intentionally focus on more than just me, and I think this holds true for groups of people. Unfortunately, we may have lost a few of the tools and anchors that reminded us that gathering on Sundays isn’t about us. Sure, we no doubt benefit, but we are not the one being celebrated. We’re really gathering to celebrate Jesus. While that seems very broad and most would say they do that, when we begin narrowing our understanding a little more a foundation of celebration emerges. What is it about Jesus we are celebrating? I think at the most structural level, unity with Christ is the heart of our worship gathering.

The bible gives two major scenarios to explain unity in Christ; we in him (Baptism) and He in us (Communion/Eucharist). He gave us visual aids and physical anchoring reminders of these two spiritual realities. We are spiritual baptized into Christ and have put Him on (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:1-4), and there are present and certain realities flowing from this, be it beneficial for life or symbolic to bring us to a point of remembering. “How” the Church baptizes is not nearly as important as “that” and “why” we baptize, but many have confused the importance of these and have elevated “how” over “why” and “that”, and in many cases have abandoned any understanding of “why” and “that” at all.

He in us, or the Eucharist (Communion) is the second leg of why we gather. He poured out His spirit into the hearts of His people (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 5:5). He promised to do this (Ez. 36:27, Jer. 31:31-34, Jer. 33:14-26). This is the reality that communion (Eucharist) is displaying. We are the Kingdom of God that has been so intimately connected to our King that we are in Him and He is in us, and that is the heart of worship as we gather. In fact, that is the life of worship as we go out from gathering. These are the anchors of the Christian life and worship…

The Mystic South

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DevilHaving the vantage of origins in the Southern portions of America, having lived in California, and now residing in the Midwest, there is undeniably a mysticism that lives everywhere in differing forms and focuses, but the South seems more comfortable embracing Mysticism as truth into their Orthodox. When it comes to the “Devil made me do it” mentality, the South leads the charge. My friends in the South must realize their greatest enemy stares at them in the morning mirror, he goes to work with us, she raises our kids alongside us, she yells at our spouse, he gets angry at nothing and everything. Our greatest enemy is us.

“I made me do it.”

This Southern fascination with blaming everything on the Devil is a window into a flawed root to understanding who Jesus was and what He did. Dominating the Southern religious perspective is the idea that Christ greatest work is yet to come. While there is certainly some truth to that, they cannot hold in coexisting tension any other idea or Christological reality, so it abandons or relegates what Christ has done to something less than it should be. If I think my transmission to be faulty and I take it in to have the transmission rebuilt, it would make little sense to receive the newly rebuilt auto and yet spend all my time looking forward to the day the transmission will be rebuilt. It has been rebuilt, just like the mechanic promised. It may be that I need to abandon my definition of “rebuilt” and take up the mechanics definition of “rebuilt”.

“No one fears a dethroned King and a squandered kingdom.”

Jesus sits in the heavens at the right hand of the father as victorious king (Ps. 110:1). Jesus fulfilled all scripture (Luke 4:21, Matt. 26:54), and the, so-called, New Testament highgate-8225was inspired by God to reveal that reality. That includes Genesis 3:15 and Mark 3:27. The ancient serpent we think lurks in every stubbed toe, was defeated by Jesus. The strong man we think the cause of our family trouble has been bound and the strong man’s house has been plundered. What Jesus will do when He returns is debated, but what must stay uncontested is the seat from which He will arise to do it. He comes back, not to be crowned as King, that He already is and has been for thousands of years. He is not a de facto King. He took that Kingdom two thousand years ago and has been working through His spirit in His people to clean up the mess ever since. When He returns, He will receive the restored mess of humanity that He himself restored by becoming King and giving His spirit to His people to restore (Acts 2, 1 Cor. 15:23-25).

 

 

A Tale of Two Daughters

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thPGOFWK3NA Woman living dead, and a young girl lying dead. Two very broken situation may be saying more than we realize. Who doesn’t recall the story of the two sons in the story of the prodigal son? Mark gives us a very similar story with very similar implications (Mark 5:21-43).

As Jesus makes His way through the crowd a woman with an issue of blood seeks to end this flow of blood. Israel’s twelve tribes have a similar problem as the author of Hebrews points out. Without Christ, the blood of the sacrifice would flow forever, but Jesus put an end to that blood flow by pouring out His own blood on a Roman cross.

His intent in traveling this way was to heal a little girl lying sick. As He’s entangled with the woman above, He receives word the girl is dead and not to trouble Himself any further. Jesus, endures ridicule and laughter as He kneels beside the young girl. He brings her back to life. It wasn’t long into human history when God called Abraham out to form a special people who would be the bearers of God’s covenant love and blessing to the world. Paul refers to everyone outside Israel as Gentiles that were once laying dead regarding the covenants and love of God (Eph.2 ). In the cross they are raised from the dead and enjoined as God’s people.th1ZM6RCFH

There was a work being done with all humanity as seen in Jesus heading first toward the young girl. There is then a work done specifically for the Israelites as seen in the interruption of the woman. A lass, they are both alive and joined as the daughters of the living God in a renewed work in all humanity in these days.

Making learners, lovers, and doers

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Jesus didn’t demand we make converts of the world around us, he said make disciples (Matt. 28:18-19). Paul, after being stoned and kicked out of Lystra, goes back into the city and makes many disciples, and then he leaves (Acts 14:21).

“A disciple is simply a learner”

We tend to overcomplicate and muddy the waters, but a disciple is simply a learner. Our goal is to make people learners and lovers of Jesus. I love what Oswald Sanders recounts of J. Edgar Hoover in his book Spiritual Discipleship when he writes, “When J. Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI in Washington, he interviewed a young communist who volunteered this statement: ‘We communists do not learn to show what a high IQ we have. We learn in order to putthHWX30O9M into practice what we’ve learned”

“I think we struggle having people follow Jesus as opposed to having people follow us.”

We’re all disciples of something, at differing levels and degrees. You can easily discover whose or what you’re a disciple of by asking:

1- What do I spend time learning?

2- What do I spend time doing about it?

Talking Jesus in real life

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Laugh 1On a walk just the other day, my wife and were discussing a relationship she has with someone asking, what we call, “Soul” questions. Our conversation isn’t as important as the principles of our conversation. We intentionally make talking about Jesus normal, natural, and non-interruptive. Here are some helpful guidelines to speaking words of life in everyday real life relationships, with some critical lead in elements:

1-Be available – Be around people. If you’re a little shy or introverted, you need to stretch yourself. If your extraverted, you’ll need to stretch yourself in the opposite direction. You may need to give people a breather at times, but in any event, give off the “I’m available” vibe. You do this by just actually being available and around when people need you.

2-Really listen – This really takes heart change, but you need to care about life. You need to care about the person whose speaking to you or spending time with you. Seeing everyone as created in God’s image is a great place to start. People are real and they have real lives they take just as seriously as you take your life. Stop to hear people with your heart.

3-Be ready – We often misunderstand knowing Jesus with being able to talk about knowing Jesus. Practicing the Gospel embeds it practically into your own heart and enables you to communicate it effectively. You may not think the story of Jesus can help in all situations, but it can and does. When you’re listening to a person asking “Soul” questions, be ready to offer helpful and life-giving words that meet the person on their “Soul” questioning journey. Laugh 3

4-Cast with care – No one who loves fishing, doesn’t thoughtfully think through what the fish most need. Our situation in life isn’t much different. Though we are not catching fish as much as we are loving people, we are in a particular portion of the world’s water. We are in a certain boat, and we are careful to select the right Rod, line, and lure. In all of this, the fish is in mind. In all of our life, are people in mind?

5- Let it go – It gets weird when we think we have to present some script that worked once upon a time, in a galaxy far away. At times, you’ll feel as though you’ve said too much and some times too little. That’s normal. Don’t stretch the conversation and relationship past its elasticity. Let it be normal. I’ve never met anyone, after having a bizarre religious conversation, that said “I want to be weird and overreaching just like you! Tell me how”.

I grew up in an environment where “Evangelism” was what you did on Tuesday nights by going door to door asking people you’ve never met to accept a God they’ve never seen have a real life effect in the lives of people. Most people are terrified of this, and I was no exception. I love people, but I would much rather come in and talk about real life issues, get to know you, find out about you, and how I can help you. Jesus called us to be light, and we have held a view of “Evangelism” that presumes this light can simply be turned on and off as if we were some sort of religious double agent.

Inside the pain: The Church and basketball

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BBDurant’s MVP speech really took me back and energized me forward. The NBA has certainly changed since I sat with a friend in the Charlotte Coliseum watching Jordan dismantle the Charlotte Hornets.  A product of a single mother working hard to give me a chance in the world, I spent hours with a basketball growing up. One thing that was missing then and is still largely missing now, is an older wiser voice. We tend to cast these kids into a category that perpetuates their avoidance and deviance to “adult” norms, but you have no voice when you’re speaking around them, you only have a voice in the midst of them.

I’m from the Carolina’s, were local hospitals didn’t release newborns until parents had either confirmed their allegiance to the Blue Devils or Tarheels, so basketball is what we did. The NBA takes ridicule today for its “Thuggish” culture, but I see it a little different. Partly being annoyed when people use stones to cast rather than to build, I still see basketball as a place the church should be. When you take time to involve yourself in solutions rather than condemnation and isolation from certain environments, you find yourself with a different perspective entirely. The Church cannot extract themselves from something and immediately turn and expect an environment that cannot exist without the church. That simply makes no sense, but we do it all the time. I guarantee there are people within your church that play and love basketball. Why are we not out in our neighborhoods playing? If you have a YMCA or a park near you, that is a great place to start. BB2

Be there, be available, and be encouraging. Be on the court and allow your Christianity to shine when you’re fouled, when bad calls are made, when tempers flair, when you win, win you lose, when you get hurt, when you inadvertently hurt someone, when you’re tired, when you’re energized, when you’ve worked all day, when your own life is painful, and when you think you cannot make a difference. Know this, you can and are making a difference, but not from the outside. Difference makers are on the inside.

What I would ask Matthew Vines

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thCA5R12RCThis may be the most difficult issue in modern history, not due to the volume of homosexuals, because only around 2% of the world’s population would claim this identity, rather due to the one thing that affects us all, sexuality. Anything that encompasses so much of humanity is going to draw major poles of arguments. I think many in more conservative circles misunderstand what it must feel like to be in an extreme minority regarding such a life altering reality. I also think more liberal circles too easily dismiss why people struggle to accept this reality. This issue is complex and I take it very seriously. I take it seriously because I take people seriously, and this issue has come with many tears for many people. We forget this complex issue involves people, on both sides, that experience a range of powerful emotions. After reading Matthew Vines new book, “God and the Gay Christian”, I’m left with many questions for Matthew, but I’ve narrowed it to three:

1- What’s next? – As a Christian, or more specifically as a pastor, it’s critical to identify harmful societal issues and address them. As two Christians who seem to have a grand view of God’s covenant marriage, when will you begin addressing the undeniable blemish of homosexual relationships on society. I call heterosexuals into a biblical view of one monogamous covenantal relationship which would decrease certain societal issues like unwanted pregnancies leading to abortions, STD’s, the pain and effects of divorce and adultery, single parental issues, and a host of other issues. When will you begin calling the homosexual community to account for the, as you often speak to in your book, acts of good fruit? Why is one of the core arguments of your book not the core characteristic of the homosexual community? Do you love the homosexual community enough to address unpopular issues such as extremely high suicide rates, extreme promiscuity, violent crimes, high rates of STD’s, and other issues to which this list here covers a few and Mark Regnerus’ study here.

2- What about ancient societies? – No doubt the ancient world was homosexually active, I would argue even more so than current societies, and you do a great job of drawing those realities out. Why do you suppose none of those cultures supported or condoned the marital union of these relationships? What role do you suppose ancient Greek and Roman views on the family as the fabric of society play into not condoning same-sex marriage?

3- What about life? – You reference Genesis often in your book, and briefly talk about the “be fruitful and multiply” issue. What role does life play in God’s created order, specifically regarding human sexuality? As a pastor who regular addresses issues of contraception, masturbation, and oral sex as contrary to God’s design for human sexuality due primarily to their inability to create life, which is inextricably bound with God’s design for sexuality throughout scripture, how would you address the inability to ever create life among homosexuals?thCA4IVDGX

To find these questions antagonistic, is to miss the point. We cannot shy away from the harder questions when addressing cultural issues, and I genuinely would like Matthew and anyone engaged in these issue to give thoughtful consideration to these questions. I believe, as Matthew does, in the reality that Christ is the enthroned King (Eph. 1:20). I also believe the Holy Spirit’s reality in the New Covenant differs from that of the Old Covenant in that now all of God’s people are filled with His spirit permanently. The Old Covenant continually shows us a Spirit that was fleeting and temporal to accomplish God’s plan in the world. Jesus as the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-21) not only did what Adam could not, He gives His spirit to His people to fulfill the original out working of a faithful Adam, to subdue and have dominion over the Earth. To create Heaven on Earth if you will. This means I’m for societies progress as, if we’re honest, we all claim to be.

 

Patience without white flags

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MWhite Flag 1any of us give in too quickly to the ebbs and flows of growing relationships. One moment a relationship fires on all cylinders, the next moment it’s a wreck, or so it seems. That’s normal, but too many of us mistake that for abnormality. You think you’re an animal lover? Try freeing one from a trap. Try picking up a wounded animal so you can tend to its wounds. We are all relationally wounded at different levels. Love is willing to be bitten to help the one biting. Here are three ways I’ve found to be helpful in bandaging the wounded.

1- Patience – Healing isn’t going to happen overnight, and often the person you’re caring for is going to see you as the enemy too. The wounded bite and those bites can come across as hurtful things said and done. Be patient. Know that their reacting to pain. Know you’re sticking it out is critical to their health.

2- Don’t say stupid things – You have to know when it’s time to stretch the person’s comfort zone. There is a time to sympathize and empathize with theCaged hurting, but there is also a time of gentle persuasion to think and act differently. During this stretching you could experience some pretty harsh reaction. Some reactions so harsh, had you done that to them, they would have been appalled. Stay with them, and continue to patiently care for them.

3- Practice silence – During this process, you will experience silence at times. It’s normal for a person working through a range of emotions to try cutting you out of their lives. Be wise, and intentionally be there for them in the silence. Maybe an occasional text, call, or letter. It’s important that they know you’re there, even if they are angry at your helping them heal.

 

Why?

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Question 1We have few boxes for children who question deeply. Growing up I recall being told that we do not ask God why. That provoked only one question in my mind. Why? This question has formed and molded me. The more deeply we question the more legitimate the answers. I questioned deeply if there was a God. I question deeply if that God is best understood in Jesus. I questioned deeply nuances of my faith. The questioner frustrates the answerer, and why shouldn’t they. You asked a question and they gave the answer. That’s it, right? Not for the questioner.

My middle daughter asked just the other day during morning devotional, “Dad, what if I don’t believe God is real”. She asks this question a lot, in different ways. Fortunately for her she’s not asking someone who just read about the answer or heard it in a lecture. I have breathed in this question and exhaled a journey of answers. She’s not asking a rookie questioner. You cannot hide the flame of questions under anything that it will not soon burn through, so I answer her. I answer be asking better questions. I help her to ask herself if there are other areas of her life that rely entirely on faith. I recall one morning when she said, “gravity”. I believe in gravity, dad. Question 3There are certainly more examples and she will find them as she questions. She didn’t learn an answer that morning more than she learned how to question well.

We have determined that the exceptional among us can ingest information and regurgitate it on command, which makes me wonder if the ability to recall information is the pinnacle of intelligence at all. Computers, with all their intelligence can only give you what you ask it too, so who is truly the most intelligent, the one regurgitating or the one provoking the regurgitation through asking the better question.

7 simple words that wreck world views

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truth 2“I don’t believe in God”, I hear it all the time. The reality is, we all believe in God, but many have assumed the divine role for themselves. I’ll often ask how they know what’s true. Some will suppose they can simply dismiss this question with a quick-witted quip of believing truth is “to each his/her own”. Believing truth is found by the person, within the person, and applied only to the person. “Do you believe that’s true for everyone”, I ask. 7 simple words that wreck this world view. You cannot escape objective truths. Objective truths exist, we all presuppose them daily, and they cannot originate from the individual and maintain objectivity.

Some will even admit believing in truth apart from God. When asked how they know things to be true, the answer always narrows to senses truthand reasoning. When asked how they know there senses and reasoning are valid, they generally recognize that it is by their senses and reasoning that their senses and reasoning are validated. Recognizing that to have major irreconcilable circularity, the next remark is often “Well, how do you know your sense and reasoning are valid”. Well, the answer is found outside of us, in God. God has communicated truth to the world in Jesus, and that communication is kept via the bible.

A God like me: Rethinking Easter

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The picture of a cowering Jesus in the garden and on the cross plugs awkwardly into the Jesus tradition. Stories of joyfully singing martyrs spilling their lives to follow Jesus appears to be a divergence from Jesus’ own experience, and that has always bothered me.Cup

All we know of Jesus life was His knowing that He came to die. The Gospels are littered with this reality. The very writing structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is moving the reader toward this event in Jerusalem. He rebukes Peter for attempting to stop it. He resists Satan’s temptation to have it happen differently. He spoke often of His hour, and He knew the time of His hour, or death, had come. He knew the Old Testament, so He even knew how it was going to happen and that it had to happen. It’s a fact that He stressfully agonized in the Garden. Bearing the weight of the world’s separation from God would be unimaginably agonizing, but I’m not convinced that at this pivotal moment, Jesus gets cold feet. If he does, at least how we’ve understood it, He becomes the biggest hypocrite in all of History, and that’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the Jesus we need.

“We don’t need a God who is like us, we need one who is like God.”

What if the cup did “pass” as Jesus asked. We assume that “pass” means “not happen”, but the Greek expression “pass”, can also mean “to come and go quickly”. A person could spend a few days dying on a Roman cross, but Jesus death within six hours surprised the executioners into using methods to validate His death. Dying on a cross within six hours was astonishing. To add greater complexity, the author of Hebrews referring back to this time, implies that His garden prayer was indeed answered (Heb. 5:7). The cup, as the author of Hebrews suggests, did come and go quickly.

“In our attempt to connect Jesus to humanity, we tend to make Him too human.”

We move the reluctant savior to the cross and hear Him cry out to God asking why He has been forsaken. We have good intentions in humanizing Jesus. We want to portray a God like us, but I find little comfort in a God like me. Jesus is doing from the cross what He did in life, intentionally making sense of God’s communication to His people. He’s quoting Psalm 22. Later in this same Psalm we see a picture of crucifixion some hundreds of years before it was a Roman practice. Psalm 22 ends with a picture of the New World of humanity being in covenant with Jesus. The author solidifies this reality by encouraging the reader to see that “He has performed it”, or “It is finished”.

“We need a willing God, for an unwilling humanity to flourish.”

Wanting to hate Noah

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thCAOPT9UL3I walked into the theater ready to hate this movie, but I loved it. At so many of Aronofsky’s turns I was asking myself permission to hate now, but I never could. I could not believe that I’d sat in the back of the theater hoping to formulate a vile opinion all the while finding myself near tears at least twice during the story. Once in Noah’s spying out the savagery surrounding him, an animal appearing to be a goat or lamb was tossed to the virulent crowd. They tore and ate the beast before it even hit the ground and all I saw was Christ. Upon his return from this exploration, his wife made reference to “their” wickedness. Noah looks at her with a sort of shocked regret and says, “the evil of man is not just in them, it’s in us all”.

I was disappointed, not in Noah, but in me. How could so many in my circles much smarter, wiser, and learned than I proclaim such a spectrum of disdain for a movie that had brought me to tears. Maybe we were looking for different things. I didn’t go expecting a recitation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis in some liturgical display of literature, rather I went hoping to experience something a bit more human. We can find the woven themes of grace in Breaking Bad, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Vampires, Zombies, and the like, but not here, not with what Aronofsky has done. And so it is, the three-letter stigmata of my being emerges, why? I’m struck by the ease of sway given to young Christians, maybe more specifically in academia, that seem to have merely a muted voice, if any unique voice at all to embrace as their own. They seem only to be able to regurgitate thoughts thought for them, and it isn’t simply in these circles but in the greater breadth of Christianity as well. The sort of do your secular vocation and we’ll do the intellectual heavy lifting. Thank you, but I believe I’ll carry my own bags.

God spoke, and one man’s obedience has brought life from death. That is the essence of Aronofky’s Noah, and I adore the story because that is the story of Jesus.

Stop moving the comma, and change the sentence

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thBY3W14RFI am often dumbfounded at attempts to achieve different results by essentially doing the same stuff. No matter our world, we are never going to get results we hope for by simply moving the comma. It looks like this. He guys, we were doing this, but now let’s do this differently.

 

It should look like this. Hey guys, we did this, let’s try that. I’ve been in the world of business and church, and I see it in both worlds at equally ridiculous levels. We want customers in our stores, so let’s take the over priced merchandise and dance around with it. It’s still over priced. Churches want to “reach” their community, so we form committees and focus groups that ask the wrong questions and come to the same grey and self-centered conclusions.

Sentences do not fundamentally change, when we move the comma. I’ll say it again. Sentences, do not fundamentally change when we move the comma. You simply change the emphasized area of the bad idea you’re perpetuating.

The art of hiding (People)

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Hiding“Let’s be honest, some people haven’t figured out the social part of social media.” A friend once debated whether to take a hiatus from social media or just delete a person that just made their skin crawl. “Hide them”, I said. It’s that simple, just hide them. We’re often in situations that we cannot just delete a person without some awkwardness to follow. I’ve hidden people for short periods of time, and I’ve some friends that have been hidden for a long time. They’re still friends, I just cannot watch so many train wrecks at once. I’m sure people have hidden me. Heck, I often annoy myself. Hiding someone is like walking away from a conversation at a party. You don’t really dislike the person, you guys are just different enough to annoy each other more often than not. Deleting a person is like telling someone to get out. That’s an awkward party moment and creates tension and division among friends you both probably Hiding 2share.

You deserve to be hidden when:

1- You’re constantly pessimistic.

2- Things that should stay in your head, come out your finger tips.

3- You’ve found a soap box, and you keep finding it, in every post.

“In hiding a friend or two, you’re simply sending them to their rooms to think about what they’ve posted.”

Dropping stones

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Throwing StonesFamilies fight, some much worse than others. They fight because they’re born into a community not of their choosing and because each person in this natural-born community is, well, a person and an individual with all the personality and life that comes with that. The only way I knew to deal with the tension of family when I was younger was to run away, and once I was far enough, I began casting stones. It took way too long to realize that God put me in my family to be a part of my family.

Christianity is no different it seems, and I wonder if we’re learning the lessons of family. Here’s the way it seems to work. Someone in the family does something bizarre. The group that’s appalled distances themselves, turns, and begins casting what amounts to social media stones. I get it. It’s safe and requires much less energy to throw a stone than to place it gently and thoughtfully into a mosaic.

How do we disagree and remain family?

1- You are family- We have to cast off the presumption that the bizarre behavior takes us out of our family bond. This is the presumption that fuels everything else. We think, “They did this or that, they must not be part of the family”. Get it wrong here, and nothing else matters.

2- Talk to, not about- If it’s big enough an issue to break unity, then it’s certainly big enough to get up the gumption to go to them and personally ask Stonesthem to explain.

3- It’s not all about you- Realize that you’re angry disconnection from family will not be worked out alone. My guess is people are following you, and often blindly and unquestioning.

4- PRIDE- We think giving up our stones is weakness. They hurt us or the family, and now we’ll show them. If God can put on the stench of humanity, I believe you and I can put on the stench of humility and concern for our family.

5- Resolve to stay family- Jesus stood his ground in the midst of spit, slaps, and nails.

“The only issue that breaks us, is the one we allow to.”

This is why you’re anxious

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thUC42X1VR“You’re not there yet.”

Telling someone the bible says not to be anxious in hopes of jarring them out of anxiety is like giving a lost person directions by simply telling them they’re not there yet. It’s true but it isn’t the whole story.

“It’s about volume control.”

Anxiety works on two controls. What’s possible and what’s livable. When you can cycle through a high amount of possible life outcomes and all are very unlivable in your world, you are going to have major life anxiety.

Imagine at birth the volume of possible outcomes is turned way down. As life progresses, that volume naturally increases. For some it increases rapidly and vividly. Some, because of media and personal influences and situation, can imagine an infinite number of life possibilities. This volume has become way to loud for them. Everyone hates me, what if this car crashes into us, every shadow is a monster, what if my heart stops beating, these are just a few examples.

At the same time, you have the volume of things you cannot bear to live with. These two work in unison to have us thinking, these are possibilities and I cannot bear the th4VNVPF9Athought of any of them being true.

“The music is too loud to dance.”

These two volumes cause us to dance through life in very different ways. If both volumes are very loud, I’m going to be anxious, angry, aggregated, fearful, reclusive, and immobile. If they are way to low, I’ll be careless, lazy, indifferent, sad, and lethargic.

“The great equalizer.”

Joy is found in life when we are balancing these two volumes with faith filled accuracy. The first volume to be adjusted is the livable volume. You have to begin to increasingly accept what life has to offer by knowing it’s making me a better person, it’s all for a reason, and eventually I will be able to help someone in my situation some day (Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 1:3-7).

 

 

Green God

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th86BW2XMNThe prospect of worlds end fascinates millions. The idea is so prevalent it’s become more of a presupposition for humanity, and we seem only to be left wondering how and when. Some say it just winds to a close, some say humanity will use it up, and other think Jesus is coming back to blow it up like the death star. So it boils down to it kills itself, we kill it, or Jesus does. So who cares?

If it winds to a close, then it’s rather pointless to care for it. If its destruction is at the hand of humanity, then your ultimate fix ends with ridding the Earth of humans. If Darth Jesus is coming back to blow it up, then you would want no attachment to the Earth what so ever because Jesus only blows up bad things.

A novel idea might be to stop consulting novels and novices for our ideas surrounding this issue. So, what does God say about the Earth? Well, He says it will last forever (Ps. 104:5, 148:6, Ec. 1:4). Wouldn’t it just make sense that Christians should out thYPT4TL9Wcare anyone on this eternal rock when it comes to caring for said rock. We believe he created it (Is. 45:18). We believe it will last forever. We believe it will be filled with his glory (Dan. 2:35). We might want to make it a priority to care for it. Not because it will dissolve like a salted snail if we don’t, rather because it honors the one we claim to worship.

Giving up lent for lent

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thJKHVXLAHBeginning Ash Wednesday, lent continues roughly 40 days up until Easter. Marked by giving up life snares, it can be a great time of self-evaluation. Here’s how you can totally miss the purpose of lent:

1- You could give up wrong things. It’s popular to quit social media for a season, and that’s no different during lent. To quit social media is to misunderstand what it is. A layer of communication, similar to the phone so many years ago. Stopping connecting with people may be counter intuitive to what lent is trying to produce in us. Further puzzling is the comment I’ve seen continually from those who’ve given up social media for a season, “Well, I’m back. It’s time for me to get caught up on what I missed”. I shouldn’t have to say much more on how absurd that is. You could certainly give up being a social media train wreck for lent.

2- You could resume what you gave up. At least in a “Business as usual” way. If it’s worth giving up for 40 days, my guess is it may be best to give up for a lifetime. I’m not certain I’ve completely understood giving up self-proclaimed snares with the expressed intent on picking them up again. If it’s an idol for you, give it up for good.

3- You could think lent is about chocolate. The 40 days of lent sort of represents Jesus’ obedient triumph over the 40 days of wilderness temptations, which eventually enables you and I to be more like Jesus. You could give up things without giving in to remembering Jesus. N. T. Wright has a wonderful devotion to carry you through lent entitle, “Lent for Everyone”. Don’t give up anything before you give in to knowing Jesus more deeply.

4- You could give up things totally. We think the cure for giving into things is to give up on things. You’re not Holy if you can quit eating cake. You’re Holy if you can eat it moderately. You typically see this behavior with alcohol. Those who’ve abused alcohol, find the answer to their abuse is abstinence. Ancient cultures like Greco-Roman’s looked at total abstinence on the same level as total drunkenness. Both were seemed immature and highlighted an immature lack of self-control.

I love lent as a time to reflect on being more like Jesus, but I’m just not comfortable with temporary sanctification. Make this lent season mean more than ever before by giving up some of your misconceptions of it.

Theological thumb twittling

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thGIFUWSQVAdam had a mission that Satan ruined (Gen. 3), and there came a time when the second Adam, Jesus, underwent similar enticement (Matt. 4, Rom. 5:12-21). Satan enticed Jesus to stop doing what Adam failed to do; have dominion, or be the King He was supposed to be (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 2), which would enable his posterity to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28, Rom. 8:16).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this witty and witless exchange of “God said this. No. God actually said this”, which is no less just like the Eden scene of Adam’s failure. We grasp feverously, and quite unsuccessfully at times, to make sense of these parallel scenes. First Satan wants Jesus to live (Matt. 4:1-4), then he wants Jesus to die (Matt. 4:5-7), and finally he wants Jesus to rule (Matt. 4:8-11). All true, and eventually happen, by God’s design not Satan’s.

Now that Jesus is King enthroned at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:18-23), the redeemed design for the world continues through the people of God as the spiritual posterity or children of God (Rom. 8:16). Enabled through the now all-encompassing and filling spirit of God (Gen. 4:6), we now become the mountain Kingdom that fills the Earth and never ends (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).

Here’s were most of us become theological thumb twittlers. We have no idea about what all that means for us right now. We suppose our only role in the story is to sit and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. God did fix everything, by obediently sacrificing Himself (Heb. 7). God didn’t die to give you His spirit, simply so you could have warm fuzzies about your lot in life and a date to fill in the first pages of your bible. No, He changed the entire nature of the “Holy Spirit” for a purpose, and that purpose is to finish what He started at that cross, having dominion and subduing the world, and will return to receive what His spirit wrought in the world through His children, a Kingdom fit for a King (1 Cor. 15:24-25). Most of us don’t believe this Theology, but most of us admit it with our life. It may be time to have our life and theology agree.

Kissing the son

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KissingMany Christians cannot answer the question, “What is Jesus doing now”, but it’s this very question that clues us into an accurate view of the King and His kingdom. Jesus became the faithful son as opposed to the unfaithful sons, Adam and Israel. In his faithfulness God enthroned Him as King of the world. In a perpetual display of His authority and God’s glory in enthroning Him, the world that Adam lost dominion over and whose posterity could not subdue, Christ gains dominion and begins His subduing reign at the right hand of God via His spiritual posterity.

The peace, or shalom, that Israel was supposed to bring to the world categorizes the very nature of His subduing effects. An accurate view of the King and His kingdom calls everyone, as the Psalmist does, to kiss the son lest He be angry. Kissing the son is a world viewing submission and admission to the rule of the King. Not submitting to His rule and taking refuge under His kingly protection, according to the psalmist, gets you wrathfully subdued. Not a place you want to be.

Moreover, we see all are being subdued. In what most would say to be a grand Kissing 2and concise portrait of the gospel, Paul says, “then comes the end, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

“How is this happening”, must be our next question. Jesus is raising us from the spiritual dead, giving us new life, a new heart, and the spirit of His son within us. The spirit of God which is making us and the world a different place. No matter how long it takes to repair the damage that was done to the world, the kings spirit in us is gradually accomplishing its reversal. Not until you believe this, will you have the rewardably active faith in and around your community that the king so longs to see.

Judas, whether aware of the depths of his treacherous mocking, mocks Jesus with His betraying Kiss in a show of superficial submission and hollow admittance that Jesus is indeed the king of psalm 2. Much like that of Caiaphas the high priest admitting that it would be better for one man to die for the people (John 11:29). So, one man did die for the people, and that one man rose to be King, worthy of our true and holy kiss. May we stop kissing the son in disbelief as Judas, lest He be angry.

Thank God for atheist do-gooders

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AtheistYou know that list of people you just “Cannot work with”? It may need to get a lot shorter. Recently, I shared a community outing experience that left one or two of my listeners wondering how I could work with an atheist. It’s easy. The same way I work with hyper-religious people. I remember that imperfect people are helping other imperfect people.

I’m left wondering what would we rather atheist do? If we’re angry because they are doing good things in their communities, would we be satisfied if they were doing bad things. Maybe we’re just so stunned that they’re doing good things that it cracks open the egg of our worldview and makes us take a deeper look inside. Is it completely inconsistent with their beliefs that they are doing good things in their community, I believe it is. Do I tell them that every time we help together? No.

Atheist1When do you suppose you’re going to get a chance to be around atheist in an influencing way? When they come to church? When you debate them on-line? At work where talking religion is generally taboo? I’m a Jesus follower, so I’m going to be about doing good things, and atheist hands can callous just as easily as mine as we help other imperfect people.

 

Rethinking tithe

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tithe“75% to 85% of church budgets go to staff and buildings, but what if it didn’t?”

In his frustration, a pastor once told me the day was coming when even volunteers will be paid in the church. Every mavericky bone in my body wanted to challenge him to lead by example, stop taking a salary. So I decided to do just that. As a pastor and church starter, I will never receive a salary from my church, nor will anyone in leadership. There will also never need to be a building “committee” to build the gym that every church seems to need to be holy because we will recreate space that already exists in and around our community. I’ll work right along side those I Shepard. Maybe a teacher, mechanic, firefighter, lawyer, dishwasher or something of the sort.

“Pass the plate, so we can pass the plate.”

When people give, as no doubt the bible does teach, it will be intentionally directed toward the community and what the community has told us that it needs. There are so many doing so much good for the city, and we want to support them to fulfill their mission. Someone asked me at a recent conference how I managed to do all these things when it takes them 20 hours a week to prepare for a sermon. My first thought was “Really!”. It takes you 20 hours to prepare? It takes you 20 hours to prepare for a 40 minute sermon that will be forgotten 30 minutes later. I’m not certain that’s a good investment of time, and I’m also unsure you’re maximizing your resources.

“Get ready for deeper declines in giving.”

Most research shows tithe is declining to all time lows, and I’m inclined Givingto think its more than the typical scapegoat of the “Bad economy”. Maybe, people are becoming more skeptically exhausted with how we’ve financially operated. You see, everyone knows the church is supposed to be a bright spot in the city, yet we are often too strapped with burdensome staff wages and building costs to actually light up anything but the gym on Wednesdays.

I’m not so naive to think this is for everyone, but it is for me. It’s an expression of church in the ever-growing city sector that brings great glory to Jesus and violates no orthodoxy. It’s quite simply an expression of my beliefs. Which, we all do express.

On-line verses On-campus?

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OnlineEducation is complex, but staples to a well learned student persist. They persist in the ever-growing arguments pitting online and on campus modes of educating against one another. I’ve done both, and I’ve found most argue for their chosen path seated from their favorite recliner of experience, including me. So, I’ll attempt to explore this topic from a love seat.

“Don’t miss this!”

Learning at its core, is up to the student. It is truly that simple. If the student wants to learn, they will. From the back of the room, I’ve watch a majority of students pass the class time tooling around on Facebook, and I’ve seen them totally engaged. I’ve completed less than the bare essentials required from an online class, and I’ve taken time to dive into deeper study. I used to devour leadership books, not because I was in an MBA course but because I was tired of being a poor leader.

“Environments make a difference.”

I’ve been in classes that were so poorly administrated that I had to force my self to a greater attention. That’s a little to kind. I have literally had to keep myself from plunging out a window. That’s better. Not just due to the teaching, rather the entire discontinuity of the entire class. I’ve been in others that I didn’t want to leave. I’ve taken online classes that excited my further study, and I’ve had others that I wasn’t sure what was what and were to start and end.

“The destruction of scholarship?”

Online certainly destroys scholarship, right? No, poor scholars and poor students destroy scholarship. I’ve been in classes, both on campus and online, that left me wondering if we were all reading the same book, and others that left me amazed at the deep dialogue that occurred.

“Intimacy forgone.”

Online isn’t as intimate as the classroom, right? No, intimacy is at the whim of the student and teacher. I’ve stood in a line to speak to a scholar after a lecture just to give up with other students as “that guy” in front of us has to discuss everything they’ve ever learned in life. In both cases, intimacy generally came from email. Certainly there is more peer-to-peer interaction, right? Sure, once the hours lecture is over, and the 5 students who ask question that were answered in the lecture 30 minutes ago, that leave just enough time to stand in line to gain some intimate time with the scholar and peers, oh wait.

Are you a stifling leader?

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Micro“Sitting in a closed garage with the engine running.”

That is micro-managing leadership. I remember thinking, “Is that what I act like”, the first experience I had with a micro-manager after having been one myself. The micro-manager has two fatal flaws. They fundamentally do not believe in or care for their people. Oh, it may seem different on the surface, but just underneath is a different story. When you don’t believe in or care for your people, here’s what you’ll do:

1- You will not allow them to make you look bad. If you do actually give them the lead on something that matters, you’ll hover over their every move to make sure they do it just like you.

2- You’ll never move past how the weather is. You live in the world of superficial niceties because they only exist to get what you need done, so you can look good for that next promotion.

3- You’ll have a general pessimism about what they can never seem to get done. What do your personnel meetings look like. Are they always about who stinks and how to get rid of them, or who’s an all-star and how to reproduce them. Both extremes are self-serving. You should know all your people’s strengths and weaknesses, and you should know where you hope they will be next in their progress as humans, not just your worker drones.

4- You’ll be generally disgruntled most of the time. Why wouldn’t you be. You’re the only one who knows how to do anything right, right?

They became leaders because things they could control were done well, but they aren’t quite sure why everyone isn’t just like them when it comes to leading others. So there they sit, leading in a closed garage with the engine running. It’s only a matter of time…

99.9% Average

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Average“Chances are you’ll die, well, not so famous.”

It’s likely the world isn’t going to miss you. It’s safe to say History books will be written without you. These may not be the grandiose terms we day-dream in, but the reality is we’ll all die just having been average people.

“What we can be is above average, well, average people.”

Fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends, acquaintances, workers, and the like, all impact someone. Research continues to tell us that deep lasting impact happens in small communities, from 3 to 12 people.

“Impact should be seen in concentric circles.”

I influence and impact my children more deeply than my friends, but I impact my friends more deeply than the guy at the convenience store. We are all connected, but we are more tightly connected the further into our circles we travel.

People travel in and out of the circles, and that’s normal. Whether its children heading off to college, coworkers changing careers, or friendships fading on the horizon, there is continual movement between the circles of influence. Most of our relationships are just average people living life together. What seems to make us above average in this quest, is realizing and pouring ourselves unselfishly into these communities of influence.

Prodigal Father

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father“I forgive you.”

I wanted to mean them, but those whispered words I didn’t really mean. The moment didn’t allow me to marinate in the pain he allowed to fester over the years. I simply held his hand and whispered I forgive you father. I forgive you for a wasted life, unconcerned about anyone but you. How does one man squander so many blessings? After leaving that night, it wasn’t but a few hours later that I received the call that he was dead. A man who would, in the limited time I knew him, speak so highly of a firm handshake, had no firmness left in his hands. At forty-three, he hadn’t just drank himself to death, he had loved himself to death.

“Father’s forgive father’s.”

It wasn’t until I grew into my on fatherhood that I could begin to experience a real forgiving of him. Forgiveness doesn’t forget, rather it remembers to forgive more deeply. We’ve all heard it, I forgive but cannot forget. There is a partial truth there. We are creatures designed to remember. It’s how we remember that reveals something about us.

“We’re all dying fathers.”

I often see myself lying there dying having squandered my fatherhood, and I certainly have done just that on many occasions. I’ve often allowed myself to be carried away with me. Comparing our worth and excellence as fathers to fathers around us always leads to a distorted view of your own fatherhood. Somehow this allows us to see ourselves as doing and being so much more than they did and were. It’s not until we see our fatherhood in the shadow of Christ that we truly see ourselves as missing the fatherly mark more often than not. We’re able then to run out to meet the prodigal fathers around us with true forgiveness. Knowing that Jesus grace has indeed ran out to lavish us with love and mercy, we can do the same.

The faithlessness of Sleeplessness

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Sleeping babies“Leanness of body and soul may go together.”

A quote from the puritan theologian, John Owen, highlights the often under emphasized holy care we are to take of our bodies. Many of us do not see the body in such a way. Maybe it comes from an era and theology that emphasized physical as bad and spiritual as good. Either way, care of our bodies is reflective of the care given our souls.

Sleep is the recharging of the mind and body in such a way that without it your entire person changes. Sleep thieves are many, be it stress or health related, many of these can be directly traceable to a poor theology of the body. Most research suggest that each of our sleep needs are different, but there are severally adverse effects from not having those needs met.

“Trust keeps us from turning the mental lights out.”

Recently having taken on some major life changes, I found my sleep patterns were being obliterated. I was up late. I was up several times during the night, and I began feeling the effects pretty quickly. I was unable to give my night to God because I had never given my day to Him.

“Sleep is the foundation of the bodies proper function.”

If we are going to claim that Jesus was accurate in calling our bodies a gift and a temple of the Spirit of God, we must take seriously how we treat and interact with our bodies. A growing connection between the poor care of our bodies and the inadvertent misunderstanding of sleep is in sleep apnea. Sleep apnea and obesity are inextricably and undeniably linked, and obesity is a growing western epidemic and the church is largely missing from the conversation.

“We don’t have to be perfect, we just have to act like we believe what we believe.”

Most of us are not going to be professional athletes or models, but we have to begin to take seriously the breadth of sanctification that cannot and does not exclude our bodies…

1 Corinthians 6:20

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

 

 

Why humanity is incapable of vengence

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Peace“It is illogical to fight hurt with hurt, for in one voice you condemn hurt, while simultaneously validating it.”

We cannot think that our morality and logical consistency is intact when we seek the hurt of those who are hurting others as a response to that hurt.

In other words; I think you’re hurting me, and hurting me is wrong. In response, I seek your hurt rather than mine therefor lending validity to the reality the it wasn’t hurting people that was wrong, it was simply you hurting me that was wrong. That lifts subjective truth into the realm of objective truth and causes it to deteriorate.

In Matthew’s gospel, he records these words of Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

A back hand slap is in view here. In turning the other cheek would require the slapper to strike with a hand that would have never been used, as it would be unclean. In this, shame is allowed to be brought on the striker. Allowing God to be God in the midst of deep hurt is extremely difficult but necessary for a life of peace.

Only God can strike with clean hands and without shame…

 

A life lived out of control

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ControlYour heart, a pear shaped muscle in the middle of your chest, generally pumps up to 2000 gallons of blood a day at 100,000 beats per day and survives off of snickers, and you did not control one of those beats.

“The more you think you are in ultimate control, the more devastated you will be when you realize you are not.”

You and I are not in ultimate control. The onset of stress, anxiety, and despair are directly related to the reality that you and I often think we are in ultimate control. With a clenched fist we hold on to our life until we release our grip to find nothing in our palm but sweat.

“Acting like you are not in control.”

So what does a life out of control look like? It looks like prayer when things are going good and bad. It looks like leaning into knowing the one true God, Jesus, that is in control. It looks like being satisfied when life goes wrong because we believe and understand that it is for our benefit. Admittedly, that is easier said than done, but God’s truth is not subject to the weight of life’s situations, no matter how bad.

“The greatest source of relief in life is realizing you are not in control, but that you can know and be loved by the one who is.”

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord;
He turns it wherever He wishes.

This place is not Rome, not even close

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Rome“This place is not Rome. Not even close.”

If you know just a little of Roman history and it’s intersection with Christianity, you have to wonder how Christianity actually survived into the 2nd century. Yet, given the lasting reality of Christianity, we often stand quivering in the changing face of contemporary society and Christianity’s future.

“God continually calls us to remember in order to fuel our hope.”

Imagine a contemporary world in which the major leaders of Christianity were openly murdered. Where the near destruction of an empire’s capital was blamed on this young sect of Judaism, and a world in which we were discriminated against economically and socially that eventually led to wide-spread murder of Christians. You’d certainly think Christianity to be doomed, right? Wrong. Eventually, not even the world’s preeminent empire could destroy what Jesus set in motion.

“Yet, here we are.”

The truth of Christ lives on in every growing breath of Christianity some 2000 years after the world’s empire sought to squash us out, yet here we are, and we will always be. If we ever cease to be, it would be equivalent to the resurrection having never occurred because it would render it null and void. We will always thrive, though seasons of persecution come, we must trust that Christ will actively love his church in their thriving.

“Nothing can thwart the Kingdom of God while our eternal King graces the throne.”

Reclaiming biblical literacy

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Dumb“Humanity is only as shallow as the God it knows and serves.”

Two primary misconceptions perpetuate comparative sermons of later years and today; the idea that people need to know what the Bible means for them today, quite often at the expense of what it meant in its’ time, and the other is that depth is for seminaries. The problem is that neither the preacher nor those listening can have an accurate idea of how it applies to their lives and reality today unless they know what was meant in the time it was written and the reality that seminaries exist because the church began outsourcing biblical depth.

“In the smartest age ever, are people too dumb to get the complexity of the Bible.”

We generally think no, yet just as many would not practically teach in such a way as to mine the depths of scripture. It’s important to see a stark difference between teaching that occurred in the synagogues, be it Judaism or Christianity, and what we are encouraged to produce today. For Judaism, the synagogue primarily served as a house of prayer, a source of studying God’s word, and a place to gather in community. Sabbath teaching would be focused in on a history of Israel and their expectant future. For Christianity, the teaching was largely similar, but Jesus Christ was at the center of explanation. Make no mistake, it was complex, at least according to our contemporary standards.

“How people feel is relative to the God they know and serve, so to impact people is to explain in-depth their God.”

 

Losing my religion

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Losing“That’s me in the corner/That’s me in the spotlight/Losing my religion”.

These 1991 lyrics from the alternative band R.E.M, depict a southern phrase “Losing my religion” to make sense of the tension between what we desire and what we’ve been told are acceptable desires. In a sense, that’s me hiding from the world trying to make sense of the passions that are in contrast to how I’ve been told and driven to behave. The contrast of the first two lines implies a backing into the corner by the cultural standards, via the spotlight.

“The current cultural atmosphere is dying for us to lose our religion.”

Or better yet, our distinction. God and spirituality are becoming much more readily accepted in circles it had previously been cast out as rubbish. I dare say it’s even trendy to believe in God or be spiritual. The current battle cry sounds a little like, “Pray to and worship whatever you call God”. Guess what, if you determine it’s Godness, you are more God than the God you call God. When we lack the intellectual courage to work that out to it’s logical conclusion, we miss the reality that if God’s Godness depends on human verification then by definition humanity is more God than God. Why would we not simply be honest and openly worship ourselves? Well, many do, they are just disingenuous about it.

“Let’s ALL have the courage to live like we believe what we believe.”

No one lives like an atheist. Atheists hate to hear this, but it is true. Why is it that Christianity has to allow deep and pervasive challenges to our world view without the expectation of reciprocal challenges. The atheist has no moral standard outside of the individual or group, so they cannot make sense or stand on any morality position regarding Nazi’s, homelessness, rape, child abuse or the like. Because they’re forcing their world view onto the offender, and it’s rather obvious from the offender’s actions that they are living with a different standard that by the atheist own world view has to be accepted as individual truths. No one lives as if truth were subjective, no one. The world should be appalled and terrified of the atheist claim while subsequently being in bewilderment at it’s illogical and irrational impracticality. What they claim of Christianity’s irrationality is their biggest offense.

“To maintain Christianity the Christian must maintain the uniqueness of Losing my religionChristianity.”

How is Christianity different? The answer lies in what Jesus says is the anchor of true and eternal life, that Jesus is God and has risen from the grave in stark declaration of such claims. Paul said that a Godless ressurectionless Christianity is a sham, and it still is. I enjoy, as Jesus did, being around a variety of people like and dislike me, but I do not loose my uniqueness. I’m a Christian, and that means I believe in a God that became a man to die in my place and rose again to offer validation to the world. Contrary to popular belief, I can retain that distinction with loving confidence that allows me to continue and maintain caring, loving, and helping relationships with those not sharing my distinctions.

Being distinct and kind are not mutually exclusive, and everyone else is living out this claim, but pay close attention, they are simultaneously and unwittingly claiming that Christianity must lose it’s uniqueness in order to care for the world. When it is our very uniqueness that drives us to care for the world more feverously than any…

Ministry folks: How to insure your family hates church

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1Bored- Smiling in public, frowning at home:

I suppose I have the phony political smile in mind. Close the gap between who you are at home and in ministry, and close it fast. Repent of the difference and ask for your family to forgive you. Open repentance works well to create a do-over expectation for you and those around you.

2- Make the worlds most exciting story, boring:

If your kids think you’re boring, so does everyone else, but they just aren’t telling you. Your kids will tell you, ask them. You are their quick track to knowing the Bible. You make it boring and methodical, and they will take that with them into the rest of their lives.

3- Be unimaginably stressed out by doing “God’s work”:

My son told me on the way to school recently that he’s planning on being a police officer, and that is going to be much harder than what I do. After asking him what he thinks I do, he says, “You talk and pray, how hard is that”. I suppose I agree. I do “Talk” and “Pray”. Here’s the insider info. He said “pray” because I pray for them before they leave for school. I pray for them before they go to sleep. I pray for them throughout the day, and that’s just them. He recognized that I do a lot of praying. My guess is not everyone in ministry would have a child say that.

The less you pray, the more you’ll work. Sounds weird, but it’s true.

4- Make everyone more important than them:Bored 2

Think about how God designed life to show relational importance. Your family is the closest to ground zero and gets the most damage when you struggle in ministry. If you drop everything for everyone, except your family, you send a loud and clear message that your family is low priority. Ultimately, you’re no different than the career oriented family sacrificer in any other profession. Ministry is not a profession, it’s a calling. If it’s primarily a profession to you, you will eventually act like it.

5- Go to church non-stop:

But the puritans went to church everyday, right? Why can’t we keep Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Tuesday/Thursday Bible group times. Wow, that wears me out just typing it. Keep ministry simple. On Sunday, worship together, Monday through Saturday, live together. Not in the same house or anything. Just do normal natural life together.

If ministry is like constant grinding gears for you, you’re missing something. That doesn’t mean you should walk away, but it might. Realize God is in control, He loves you, and He didn’t give you this life to be miserable or to make others miserable.

My son was right, I just talk and pray, but I do pray. The quickest way to relieve the pressure of ministry is to be the boldest and most often prayer in the room.

We all have some explaining to do

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AtheistI think at times the atheistic and agnostic stances falsely believe they have risen above having to give an accounting for the reality around us. I am not so certain any of us are off the hook from the difficult questions of life.

“Prove that God exists.”

That’s the typical request to which it may be helpful to have our atheistic and agnostic friends work on a similar problem while we are thinking that one through. Prove that God does not exist. Neither of us live apart from faith.

“How do you know truth?”

That may be the question we are forgetting to have our atheistic and agnostic friends work through. As a Christian, Jesus is my standard of overarching truth. More specifically what the Bible has captured and retained for us regarding Jesus. My atheist and agnostic friends have yet to come up with a standard of truth outside of themselves.

If you are your own truth standard, then so is Joe, Bobby, Chris, Susan, and every other human, and at the moment you say truth is subjective, you have just used an objective overarching truth to do that. Which denies the atheist and agnostics entire system of knowing things. Can you keep making truth claims and not actually believe in truth?

I have agnostic and atheistic friends that are some of the best folks I know, but I am not so convinced that I am the only one with some explaining to do…

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

 

Conversation with my enemy – the apologetic of love

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thCA3HKJ0JCold and wet, running from a rain storm on my motorcycle making coming home from the cities, a break was in order. Pulling off the interstate onto the back roads of a small town south of the cities, I stopped at a local downtown business I’d been eyeing for some time, but this time I felt extremely compelled to stop in. Shopping around a bit, I wanted to chat with the seemingly Iraqi owner to kill some time and delay my return to the elements, and chat we did.

To my surprise, he’d given me several free items from his store, and the gracious interaction he displayed with each entering customer amazed me to the point that I had to ask him what compels him to be that way. He already knew I was a Christian, and his seamless response to that question shocked me. He said, “Because I’m Muslim you know.”

He explained the Koran doesn’t allow for any living thing to be killed, especially humans. Money is why they do it, he explained. It’s not about religion, it’s about money. They just happen to be Muslim and that is used against them. They prey on the vulnerable, offer them 50 to 100 thousand dollars to blow something up, and they take it. It is about oil. Al-Qaida knows if they create a volatile environment, oil prices will rise and wreck the American economy. It all comes down to oil and money. It has less to do with religion, but that’s not what we are being led to believe.

“The middle east is full of Christians”! My immediate reaction was, “What”. Yea, he said, there are thousands of Christians. As he talked more about the recent unrest and fleeing of so many Christians in the area, he explained that many have taken refuge with local Muslim families, including his family. thCACZJPHO

“Saddam was bad, but it is much worse now. He said now everyone has guns, knives, and all sorts of weapons. Under Saddam, if you were caught with anything like that, you would be in prison for quite a while. As for really bad guys, if they were caught, they would be gone forever. Because of the nature of the Middle East it requires a strong and sometimes harsh leader, like Saddam. What’s happening now, is a nightmare.”

I couldn’t be more thankful for this interaction. Do I still believe that Jesus was God? Yea, I do. Does he? No, he does not. Do I want him to believe that too? Yea, I do, but for that one rainy day in August, we both began a dialogue on the common ground that life is precious and must be cherished…

 

Jesus was insane?

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INsane“Can you repeat that back to me?”

That used to be my tag line after correcting one of my children, who had made a practice of hearing what she wanted to hear. We would rinse and repeat my instruction several times until, viola, she got it.

“Self absorption causes us to hear what we want and not what is being communicated.”

We think selfishness is a bad thing, but not entirely. A healthy self-centeredness is necessary for survival. When you are on an air plane and the safety instructions are given, who is asked to put on the mask on first? You! You are no good to anyone starved of oxygen, when you are just as starved. We are naturally inclined to self-preservation, but it cannot be at the expense of the rest of the world, who in-fact is struggling through their own self-preservation. Self absorption has its bounds.

“Unhealthy self-centeredness sees you as the constant center.”

An unhealthy self-centeredness is one that not only puts a mask on as the plane is Insane 2loosing cabin pressure, but gets furious because everyone else in the plane has not stopped what they are doing to help them as well. We miss the reality that we cannot fully appreciate ourselves until we understand the community of ourselves. The reality of Jesus’ spirit in His people today is to create just that type of healthy community.

“Insanity is believing you are the exception without believing in exceptions.”

Is it not interesting that someone could think Jesus was insane without giving any entertainingly mental space for the possibility that they themselves could be insane. Once, when He taught that He was the only way to God (John 10), His hearers concluded that this guy is nuts. Interestingly enough, the very Israelite group that believed and voiced that made it a practice to look at themselves as the only way to God (Ex. 4:22) and that was not a problem for them.

At the end of the day, we cannot live outside of community and we cannot survive within an unhealthy community…

“Many of them were saying ‘He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” – John 10:22

 

How to riot like God’s – The voices we miss in Ferguson

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th9A6X2Y3R

History offers many examples of how best to express our corporate disgust and anger over issues that should have ended differently. While there are many good examples, we often hear only of the bad ones, for obvious reasons. Here are three lessons, rules if you will, to guide your passions in protest, from three of the worlds most well-known protesters:

1- “I cannot teach you violence, as I myself do not believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your head before anyone, even at the cost of your own life.” – Gandhi

Gandhi was willing to die for what was right, but he was not willing to kill.

2- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK was willing to love in the face of hate.

3- “What good is it to simply love those who love you back? We are set apart by loving in the face of persecution and hate.” – Jesus (Luke 6:32)

Jesus knew hate could only destroy us, but love could never destroy or be destroyed.

The world misses these men. Now we need men across the ethnic and national spectrum with the courage to stand between the people’s passions and the institution’s actions, and speak calm wisdom into both…

 

 

Embracing the Scarlet Sadness

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ScarletWe’re terrified of sadness. Sadness is the exception in life, so we think. We’ve done our best to medicate, sooth, council, and psychoanalyze it away, yet it persists. The scarlet letter hidden deep within us impacts the world in untold ways every single day.

“Could sadness be necessary for our mental health?”

It may be time for the world to embrace sadness as normal and necessary. In sadness we look full in the face of our limitations. What we desire doesn’t seem to marry well with what is reality. Exclusive and constant happiness is atrocious in the face of the world we live in. Sadness is necessary and normal and has to be embraced and welcomed.

“Community disperses the weight of sadness.”

Sadness sits like a mountain of bricks on the soul. It cannot be escaped for long, no matter the worlds device. You must stop, turn, and embrace your scarlet sadness and all its weight, a weight that must be dispersed through many souls creating a wider surface, or the one soul crushes.

38 reasons Eric Kaler is right

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SOiuxIt’s startling how easily we dismiss the pain of others. Whether its a personal loss, a family loss, or a loss that impacts an entire group of people, we have this un-empathetic point in which we proclaim, “Just get over it”. I’ve seen this happen with those who grieve the lost parents, children, friends, spouses and the like.

This unsympathetic reality extends to entire groups as well, and has recently made it’s way to the University of Minnesota. University president, Eric Kaler, and US Representative, Betty McCollum, are sending a message to the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings upcoming game verses the Washington Redskins approaches. They’ve strongly opposed the propagation of the nickname “Redskin”, at least while the team visits Minnesota. [Read HERE]

There may be no better place to take such a stand than right here in the Twin Cities. I’m not certain that December 26th, 1862, and the execution of 38 Dakota Indians in the largest mass execution in American history, can be or should be so easily looked over. It was reported that skin was taken from the executed Dakota Indians and sold in neighboring areas just before the bodies were dumped in a trench. [Read HERE]

Let’s not be fooled by all the “Treaty” talk. Land being given up was never an option, and I think Native American tribal leaders got that. It was more an issue of what the American government was offering; “We take most of your land, and give you a little in return, or we take all your land and give you nothing in return”. Treaties were no more than feel good, if you will. Imagine invaders came into you’re home and demanded logging at gun point. They say we’ll pay you $2 dollars a day to occupy most of the house, or we’ll bury you out back and take all the house. You take the $2, and for the record, that is similarly grossly miss undervaluing the cost of daily lodging.

We all live with an unalterable past, but we do have the ability and obligation to honestly reflect on the past in order to correct the future. This seems like a very necessary correcting step for Minnesota…

Is supporting Israel equavalent to supporting Jesus?

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SonYou cannot love God and not support Israel, right? How did supporting Israel, no matter how many children and families (Here & Here) they appear to purposefully target, become part and parcel of American Theology? The answer isn’t a reversal and wholesale abandonment of supporting Israel, that’s just as unhelpful and inconsistent.

“The answer is seeing Jesus as Jesus and Israel as Israel.”

This unashamed and relentless support is a long and sorted tale full of passionate polarizations, but it has its roots in fragmented and blurred understandings of the identities of both Jesus and Israel. The consequences of not seeing Jesus as the true revelation of God to the world and most specifically the fulfillment of the existence of Israel is deep and far-reaching and fosters this odd equivalence between Jesus and Israel that simply does not exist. It creates a bizarre Christo-political environment that is theologically fractured and incapable of making sense of our nations true foreign political identity.

and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:17

Just a chapter before, Matthew explained that Hos. 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called my son”, was truly fulfilled in Jesus. All the Gospels are making the case that Jesus is the true, faithful, pleasing, and obedient Adam and Israel. God is proclaiming His pleasure in Jesus at the expense and reality of His displeasure with Israel who was also and firstly known to be God’s son (Ex. 4:22). The entire Old Testament is full of stories wherein the Older son (Israel) gives way to the younger son (Jesus), Ishmael vs. Isaac – Esau vs. Jacob – Reuben vs. Joseph – Joseph vs. Benjamin – Eliab vs. David, and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Before jumping to one more Christo-political proclamation read these: (Here)

If Jesus isn’t the full summation of God speaking, then the door is wide open for many things to fill that vacuum…

 

 

Why are Christians so weird?

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WeirdI’m not sure. I’m also not sure we’re the only ones, either. I’ve come across my fair share of bizarre humanists and atheists too. I’m a Christian and I find myself asking that more and more. Recently, while watching an extremely popular and acclaimed rocker expound upon his faith in an interview designed to dig deep, I’m struck by the ever viral nature of superstar Christianity. Not that it exists, rather that we’re surprised it does. Why are we so surprised when countless athletes, film makers, politicians, and CEO’s profess belief in and a life that follows Jesus. Let’s be honest, most people’s first thoughts are that they must have a diluted faith, or that they don’t believe in Jesus like I do. We may even explain it away as “Oh, they’re just part of this or that faith tradition”. I think at the heart of the issue is some misguided ember of Christianity that demands we be bizarre and disconnected from the world to follow Jesus.

We just cannot quite make sense of being Christian and being normal. Being Christian means I don’t drink, smoke, say swear words, or play sports on Sundays. I listen only to the 20-year-old Christian music that still happens to be playing on Christian radio as if it were just recorded. I wear Christian cloths and speak Christianese. I pray before every meal, do devotion in the morning and at night, and never miss church. I never lose my temper, talk bad about others, or get aggravated at trivial things. To top the list off, I don’t hangout with anyone who does these things either. I’m sure many of us could add to this list. I think we are fairly certain that you cannot do all that, be famously popular, and be a Christian, so when we see it, it’s like looking into the woods and spotting bigfoot. We are intrigued and terrified all at the same time, but we cannot turn away and we must run and tell others.

Recently, my wife was asked by a rather entrenched God skeptic, or so you might think based on the standard of “normal” Christian I gave above, to prove God. He didn’t want some “preacher” answer, as he stated it. He wanted her to prove God’s existence in one sentence. A one liner. A tweet, if you will. We knew him and he knew us, and yet he came to her for a real life normal answer. Why? I believe he was amazed, in a sense, that we were so normal and in love with life while maintaining our deep love for Jesus.

I don’t love life and Jesus, I love life because of Jesus, and that makes me a little less weird…. a little.

 

What is the best revenge?

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RevengeSettling the score, righting the wrong, serving up “just” desserts. Sweet revenge, right? Most people have been in a situation that could warrant a little revenge. The mechanics of revenge are divine though, and that’s precisely why we’re incapable of accurate vengeance. Revenge assumes you are innocent, the other person is guilty, and you know what they deserve. God knows we are all guilty at some level; as such, we have the inability to quantify another’s guilt to the extent that we exact the ideal retribution. We also generally have mistaken motives as our end goal, so saying something like “well, they’ll get there’s” is still misunderstanding vengeance. God avenges in a way that benefits all, including the one receiving His vengeance. Because we are not God, we have an inability to avenge correctly, and even if we did stumble upon the right mode of vengeance, it would be negated for the sheer fact that one needing vengeance cannot also be the one avenging. Besides, have you ever tried avenging, loving, and forgiving all at the same time. It’s like breathing out your nose and swallowing at the same time. It’s impossible for us, but not for God. The best vengeance in most situations is forgiving, realizing there is much more to the story that you probably don’t know.

Romans 9:12-21 helps put our vengeance in its place, which frees us to be human and God to be God. Mixing those up is a disaster…

Techno Crack – Embracing technology

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PhoneWe live in the smart world that can often out smart us. You have to approach this issue realizing that humans will find a way to abuse anything. The easiest fix for abuse is to just stop using. That’s a pretty good strategy for Meth but not for over-eating. Extremes are general poorly thought out and simplistically juvenile, yet we continue to hear extreme solutions to our abuse of technology framed in a way that demands we just trash all technology. History is rich with these polarizing solutions. It rarely works, and often only works to divide people more than actually achieving its attempt at bringing people together.

I’ve met people camped nicely in these extremes that, as an example, don’t take pictures of events so they can “be in the moment”. Guess what, you can actually do both. You can soak in the splendor of the moment, and then you can take a picture for lasting memories. Sounds crazy, I know.

Do people abuse outlets like social media, you bet. Does that mean they should abandon this layer of communicating with the world? No. My oldest daughter can be caught often looking down to busy herself on her phone. Does that mean she’s not hanging out with her friends and family in a classic and intimate way, of course not, but many in the extreme corners would lead us to believe the world is one step away from forgetting what a human looks, sounds, and feels like.

In a recent video over simplifying the issue, the video over exaggerates the issue, pulls at your heart-strings, and ends with the person simply turning off their cell phone and leaving it at home. It’s just that simple, right? Wrong. Pick up your phone like grown ups in case someone needs to get in touch with you, and be wise about when and when not to use it. It’s that simple, right? Yes. We are actually going to have to think things through, situation by situation and use wisdom to navigate our ever-changing world, not extremes.

Use technology as a layer to make life more connected and easier, not less connected and complicated.

My beautiful pain – Slumdog Theologian

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PossibleThe cold greasy ridged taste of a pistol’s barrel isn’t easily forgotten. That hallway was never darker as I slumped over weeping and alone with a .380 lodged between my teeth and my finger on the trigger? The crumbling of my atypical American childhood was at an end. I was plunged into a world drastically separated from the world I was supposed to be from. I wasn’t suppose to be raised by a single mother pulling two shifts so we didn’t starve. I wasn’t suppose to have to hide my shoes under my desk because they were from family dollar. I wasn’t suppose to be one of the only white kids living in our low-income housing apartment smashing penny’s into quarter sizes so we could play video games. I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping on couches after a failed attempt at life in California. I wasn’t suppose to be a lot of things I have little comfort discussing.

I wasn’t supposed to make a six figure salary in the business world, but I did. I’m not suppose to have been married once for 15 years with three beautiful children, but I am. I’m not suppose to be educated and nearly finished with two Master’s degrees, but I am. I’m certainly not suppose to have turned my pain into a work of art to pour into others struggling as well, but I do. The kid that was a side-show to most, isn’t suppose to be a pastor and theologian either, but I am. I’m not suppose to give the credit to Jesus, but I just did.

Jesus doesn’t make you successful, He redefines success and keeps you from being a quitter.

Jesus-less Christianity

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Hide“The two goals of reading your bible are finding Jesus and finding yourself. In that order.”

Imagine how ridiculous the first person to realize Jesus was missing must have felt. Silently they must have thought to themselves, “You know, I haven’t seen Jesus in a while.” Then the moment most people dread, being the first person to pull the fire alarm. Imagine the other chump that thought about it and just assumed, “He surely has to be around here somewhere, right”.

“Well, has anybody seen Jesus?”

I feel sort of like the caravan of pilgrims making our way home only to realize we’ve forgotten Jesus. We’ve no shortage of bible “scholars” telling us what this and that verse means. Thousands of books, speakers, sermons, resources, churches, leaders, and regular people just like you and I regularly engage with the bible. In all of this, have we gone back to the temple and forgotten what we came back for? Oh yea, to find Jesus.

“Jesus said, the bible is all about Him.”

But we typically preach, counsel, encourage, argue, and lead as if Jesus actually said, “This is all about us”. When you read the bible, are you looking for Jesus or a band-aid to your emotional stability? Once you find Him, you’ll typically learn a lot about yourself, but you aren’t looking for you. I think Jesus said it best:

John 5:46: “If you believed Moses, you would have believed me, for he wrote about me.”

Luke 24:27, 44-47: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Christ explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”

Paul got it:

Col. 2:16-17: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day, things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

Herein lies the wrong way in looking at the bible. When we see verses like Col. 2:16-17, we say, “See, I can drink and eat whatever I want”. That verse, as do all of them, bares the weighty identity of Christ not you and I. Paul means for us to realize that all these foodie issues for Israel were to point to Christ, and once Christ has come, they are fulfilled in their meaning. In a sense they have no more meaning. That’s why people were not to judge according to this old dietary issues. They existed to point to Christ. Now Christ exists, so no more need for the road signs when you’ve reached your destination. Coming to the bible with this skewed motive will cause you to confuse your identity with that of Jesus’, causing the weight of the world and it’s problems to crush you even harder.

“Like so long ago, we are still simply looking for Jesus.”

Once we attend to making sure we are looking for Jesus as we come to the bible, we will find that He will attend to our needs in ways that only He can.

 

 

 

 

 

We’re more educated, but are we more smarter?

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smart1Americans are educated, or at least much more than they once were and much more than the rest of the world, at least quantitatively. Are we smarter? I guess you really have to define “educated” and “smarter”, either way, I’m not convinced we are getting a good return on our investment of time and money. Has anyone stopped to ask how we should define “smart” and who is currently defining it?

“Smart is the ability to ask as much as answer.”

We could pretend that we aren’t all subject to the flaws in higher education but we are, and this is a game we all have to play at some level. We don’t, however, have to remain dumb and in debt. There are no dumb questions right? Wrong, there are tons of dumb questions, but at least they are being asked. Don’t stop questioning. When we stop questioning, we stop innovating. When we stop questioning it’s the equivalent of inhaling and the inhaling again. Smart is the combination of inhaling and exhaling. Smart is breathing the breath of asking and answering.

“Questioning is not always excepted.”

Warning!! Questioning can cause a lot of answer people to get real uncomfortable real quick. The one lesson I’ve learned and continue to learn is the best question is often met with great resistance. A great statement can be explained away, but a great question seems to multiply in the mind. Questions crack comfortable answers wide open. Leverage your overpriced education by learning how to ask for better answers that lead to better questions.

Competetion and the Kingdom

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pictures-of-gladiators2I’m not convinced the Kingdom should compete against itself, but I do believe it should be competing with itself. Just the other day someone asked me what I thought about competition. Well, all things being equal, it largely depends on the competitors. You cannot really say competition is good or bad, you have to say there are good competitor’s and bad ones. Competition is a given. Whether it’s the business world, education, sports, siblings, coworkers or the like, it all comes down to who’s playing the game. Two people driving to achieve, that find their identity in success, will certainly be devastated when success is not achieved, and moreover they will sacrifice ever ounce of integrity to achieve it. Someone whose identity is not wrapped up in the temporal things of life can compete with joy and honor. Win or lose, this person may be happy or sad, but never are they devastated and rarely will they sacrifice sound integrity to achieve it.

“If you’re succeeding more than failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

What about the church? I haven’t had too many original ideas myself. I generally develop ideas from being involved in the world around me. Someone does something amazing, well, I want to do that too, and there is no doubt I work through what could be done better by watching others. We may be terrified of competition in the church because we are terrified of discovering a side of us that we are not comfortable with. A side that tries hard and fails miserably. Heaven forbid we realize through failure that we just aren’t as good as the church across town at this or that. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve failed completely, but I can tell you that I’m still not devastated to the point of no longer trying. The church often mistakes competition for how many are in my building. That is the definition of competing against itself. The question the church should be asking is how many are in the Kingdom. That is the essence of competing with itself and will create a spirit of healthy competition that allows for growth, learning, and partnerships between churches and denominations.

Being remembered

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th7ZCSTVS0How would you like to be remembered? To often this is a question that’s never asked or asked way to late. While we are certainly prone to remembering the negative of a person while they live and the positive once they’ve passed, we do have the ability to affect how we are remembered.

“Who you are today, will be tomorrows memory.”

Who among us doesn’t want to be remembered as a great spouse, friend, parent, grandparent, and the like, what most people do not momentarily grasp is the reality they are building their legacy each and every day. With each interaction we build our legacy, and in the end, who you were is probably truly who you were. I’ve met fathers that might as well have left their families years ago. Though they are there, they are not there at all, and that is true for spouses, parents, and the rest.

“A positive legacy is on purpose.”

Take the moments of life seriously enough to realize legacy is something you don’t just manufacture at the end, it is, at the end of the day, the reality of who you were. We too often see ourselves much more heroic than we really were. Who we were day by day etches into the hearts of those around us, even if we were nothing at all that etches just as deeply.

“Be actively and joyfully present in the world around you.”

The frame of worship

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thTK9UKH5YAs a church starter, I’ve spent many hours thinking through the nuts and bolts of church life that I spent most of my life taking for granted. Things I thought just happened. I know now they don’t “just happen”. One of the first questions that I kept coming back to regarding gathering on Sundays was “what are we doing here”. I mean, why do we even gather at all. I hadn’t asked that question to create some new space at some new time, rather to really challenge myself to have an answer for myself and those who would one day be there with me.

Everyday of my life, I have to intentionally focus on more than just me, and I think this holds true for groups of people. Unfortunately, we may have lost a few of the tools and anchors that reminded us that gathering on Sundays isn’t about us. Sure, we no doubt benefit, but we are not the one being celebrated. We’re really gathering to celebrate Jesus. While that seems very broad and most would say they do that, when we begin narrowing our understanding a little more a foundation of celebration emerges. What is it about Jesus we are celebrating? I think at the most structural level, unity with Christ is the heart of our worship gathering.

The bible gives two major scenarios to explain unity in Christ; we in him (Baptism) and He in us (Communion/Eucharist). He gave us visual aids and physical anchoring reminders of these two spiritual realities. We are spiritual baptized into Christ and have put Him on (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:1-4), and there are present and certain realities flowing from this, be it beneficial for life or symbolic to bring us to a point of remembering. “How” the Church baptizes is not nearly as important as “that” and “why” we baptize, but many have confused the importance of these and have elevated “how” over “why” and “that”, and in many cases have abandoned any understanding of “why” and “that” at all.

He in us, or the Eucharist (Communion) is the second leg of why we gather. He poured out His spirit into the hearts of His people (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 5:5). He promised to do this (Ez. 36:27, Jer. 31:31-34, Jer. 33:14-26). This is the reality that communion (Eucharist) is displaying. We are the Kingdom of God that has been so intimately connected to our King that we are in Him and He is in us, and that is the heart of worship as we gather. In fact, that is the life of worship as we go out from gathering. These are the anchors of the Christian life and worship…

The Mystic South

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DevilHaving the vantage of origins in the Southern portions of America, having lived in California, and now residing in the Midwest, there is undeniably a mysticism that lives everywhere in differing forms and focuses, but the South seems more comfortable embracing Mysticism as truth into their Orthodox. When it comes to the “Devil made me do it” mentality, the South leads the charge. My friends in the South must realize their greatest enemy stares at them in the morning mirror, he goes to work with us, she raises our kids alongside us, she yells at our spouse, he gets angry at nothing and everything. Our greatest enemy is us.

“I made me do it.”

This Southern fascination with blaming everything on the Devil is a window into a flawed root to understanding who Jesus was and what He did. Dominating the Southern religious perspective is the idea that Christ greatest work is yet to come. While there is certainly some truth to that, they cannot hold in coexisting tension any other idea or Christological reality, so it abandons or relegates what Christ has done to something less than it should be. If I think my transmission to be faulty and I take it in to have the transmission rebuilt, it would make little sense to receive the newly rebuilt auto and yet spend all my time looking forward to the day the transmission will be rebuilt. It has been rebuilt, just like the mechanic promised. It may be that I need to abandon my definition of “rebuilt” and take up the mechanics definition of “rebuilt”.

“No one fears a dethroned King and a squandered kingdom.”

Jesus sits in the heavens at the right hand of the father as victorious king (Ps. 110:1). Jesus fulfilled all scripture (Luke 4:21, Matt. 26:54), and the, so-called, New Testament highgate-8225was inspired by God to reveal that reality. That includes Genesis 3:15 and Mark 3:27. The ancient serpent we think lurks in every stubbed toe, was defeated by Jesus. The strong man we think the cause of our family trouble has been bound and the strong man’s house has been plundered. What Jesus will do when He returns is debated, but what must stay uncontested is the seat from which He will arise to do it. He comes back, not to be crowned as King, that He already is and has been for thousands of years. He is not a de facto King. He took that Kingdom two thousand years ago and has been working through His spirit in His people to clean up the mess ever since. When He returns, He will receive the restored mess of humanity that He himself restored by becoming King and giving His spirit to His people to restore (Acts 2, 1 Cor. 15:23-25).

 

 

A Tale of Two Daughters

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thPGOFWK3NA Woman living dead, and a young girl lying dead. Two very broken situation may be saying more than we realize. Who doesn’t recall the story of the two sons in the story of the prodigal son? Mark gives us a very similar story with very similar implications (Mark 5:21-43).

As Jesus makes His way through the crowd a woman with an issue of blood seeks to end this flow of blood. Israel’s twelve tribes have a similar problem as the author of Hebrews points out. Without Christ, the blood of the sacrifice would flow forever, but Jesus put an end to that blood flow by pouring out His own blood on a Roman cross.

His intent in traveling this way was to heal a little girl lying sick. As He’s entangled with the woman above, He receives word the girl is dead and not to trouble Himself any further. Jesus, endures ridicule and laughter as He kneels beside the young girl. He brings her back to life. It wasn’t long into human history when God called Abraham out to form a special people who would be the bearers of God’s covenant love and blessing to the world. Paul refers to everyone outside Israel as Gentiles that were once laying dead regarding the covenants and love of God (Eph.2 ). In the cross they are raised from the dead and enjoined as God’s people.th1ZM6RCFH

There was a work being done with all humanity as seen in Jesus heading first toward the young girl. There is then a work done specifically for the Israelites as seen in the interruption of the woman. A lass, they are both alive and joined as the daughters of the living God in a renewed work in all humanity in these days.

Making learners, lovers, and doers

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Jesus didn’t demand we make converts of the world around us, he said make disciples (Matt. 28:18-19). Paul, after being stoned and kicked out of Lystra, goes back into the city and makes many disciples, and then he leaves (Acts 14:21).

“A disciple is simply a learner”

We tend to overcomplicate and muddy the waters, but a disciple is simply a learner. Our goal is to make people learners and lovers of Jesus. I love what Oswald Sanders recounts of J. Edgar Hoover in his book Spiritual Discipleship when he writes, “When J. Edgar Hoover was head of the FBI in Washington, he interviewed a young communist who volunteered this statement: ‘We communists do not learn to show what a high IQ we have. We learn in order to putthHWX30O9M into practice what we’ve learned”

“I think we struggle having people follow Jesus as opposed to having people follow us.”

We’re all disciples of something, at differing levels and degrees. You can easily discover whose or what you’re a disciple of by asking:

1- What do I spend time learning?

2- What do I spend time doing about it?

Talking Jesus in real life

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Laugh 1On a walk just the other day, my wife and were discussing a relationship she has with someone asking, what we call, “Soul” questions. Our conversation isn’t as important as the principles of our conversation. We intentionally make talking about Jesus normal, natural, and non-interruptive. Here are some helpful guidelines to speaking words of life in everyday real life relationships, with some critical lead in elements:

1-Be available – Be around people. If you’re a little shy or introverted, you need to stretch yourself. If your extraverted, you’ll need to stretch yourself in the opposite direction. You may need to give people a breather at times, but in any event, give off the “I’m available” vibe. You do this by just actually being available and around when people need you.

2-Really listen – This really takes heart change, but you need to care about life. You need to care about the person whose speaking to you or spending time with you. Seeing everyone as created in God’s image is a great place to start. People are real and they have real lives they take just as seriously as you take your life. Stop to hear people with your heart.

3-Be ready – We often misunderstand knowing Jesus with being able to talk about knowing Jesus. Practicing the Gospel embeds it practically into your own heart and enables you to communicate it effectively. You may not think the story of Jesus can help in all situations, but it can and does. When you’re listening to a person asking “Soul” questions, be ready to offer helpful and life-giving words that meet the person on their “Soul” questioning journey. Laugh 3

4-Cast with care – No one who loves fishing, doesn’t thoughtfully think through what the fish most need. Our situation in life isn’t much different. Though we are not catching fish as much as we are loving people, we are in a particular portion of the world’s water. We are in a certain boat, and we are careful to select the right Rod, line, and lure. In all of this, the fish is in mind. In all of our life, are people in mind?

5- Let it go – It gets weird when we think we have to present some script that worked once upon a time, in a galaxy far away. At times, you’ll feel as though you’ve said too much and some times too little. That’s normal. Don’t stretch the conversation and relationship past its elasticity. Let it be normal. I’ve never met anyone, after having a bizarre religious conversation, that said “I want to be weird and overreaching just like you! Tell me how”.

I grew up in an environment where “Evangelism” was what you did on Tuesday nights by going door to door asking people you’ve never met to accept a God they’ve never seen have a real life effect in the lives of people. Most people are terrified of this, and I was no exception. I love people, but I would much rather come in and talk about real life issues, get to know you, find out about you, and how I can help you. Jesus called us to be light, and we have held a view of “Evangelism” that presumes this light can simply be turned on and off as if we were some sort of religious double agent.

Inside the pain: The Church and basketball

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BBDurant’s MVP speech really took me back and energized me forward. The NBA has certainly changed since I sat with a friend in the Charlotte Coliseum watching Jordan dismantle the Charlotte Hornets.  A product of a single mother working hard to give me a chance in the world, I spent hours with a basketball growing up. One thing that was missing then and is still largely missing now, is an older wiser voice. We tend to cast these kids into a category that perpetuates their avoidance and deviance to “adult” norms, but you have no voice when you’re speaking around them, you only have a voice in the midst of them.

I’m from the Carolina’s, were local hospitals didn’t release newborns until parents had either confirmed their allegiance to the Blue Devils or Tarheels, so basketball is what we did. The NBA takes ridicule today for its “Thuggish” culture, but I see it a little different. Partly being annoyed when people use stones to cast rather than to build, I still see basketball as a place the church should be. When you take time to involve yourself in solutions rather than condemnation and isolation from certain environments, you find yourself with a different perspective entirely. The Church cannot extract themselves from something and immediately turn and expect an environment that cannot exist without the church. That simply makes no sense, but we do it all the time. I guarantee there are people within your church that play and love basketball. Why are we not out in our neighborhoods playing? If you have a YMCA or a park near you, that is a great place to start. BB2

Be there, be available, and be encouraging. Be on the court and allow your Christianity to shine when you’re fouled, when bad calls are made, when tempers flair, when you win, win you lose, when you get hurt, when you inadvertently hurt someone, when you’re tired, when you’re energized, when you’ve worked all day, when your own life is painful, and when you think you cannot make a difference. Know this, you can and are making a difference, but not from the outside. Difference makers are on the inside.

What I would ask Matthew Vines

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thCA5R12RCThis may be the most difficult issue in modern history, not due to the volume of homosexuals, because only around 2% of the world’s population would claim this identity, rather due to the one thing that affects us all, sexuality. Anything that encompasses so much of humanity is going to draw major poles of arguments. I think many in more conservative circles misunderstand what it must feel like to be in an extreme minority regarding such a life altering reality. I also think more liberal circles too easily dismiss why people struggle to accept this reality. This issue is complex and I take it very seriously. I take it seriously because I take people seriously, and this issue has come with many tears for many people. We forget this complex issue involves people, on both sides, that experience a range of powerful emotions. After reading Matthew Vines new book, “God and the Gay Christian”, I’m left with many questions for Matthew, but I’ve narrowed it to three:

1- What’s next? – As a Christian, or more specifically as a pastor, it’s critical to identify harmful societal issues and address them. As two Christians who seem to have a grand view of God’s covenant marriage, when will you begin addressing the undeniable blemish of homosexual relationships on society. I call heterosexuals into a biblical view of one monogamous covenantal relationship which would decrease certain societal issues like unwanted pregnancies leading to abortions, STD’s, the pain and effects of divorce and adultery, single parental issues, and a host of other issues. When will you begin calling the homosexual community to account for the, as you often speak to in your book, acts of good fruit? Why is one of the core arguments of your book not the core characteristic of the homosexual community? Do you love the homosexual community enough to address unpopular issues such as extremely high suicide rates, extreme promiscuity, violent crimes, high rates of STD’s, and other issues to which this list here covers a few and Mark Regnerus’ study here.

2- What about ancient societies? – No doubt the ancient world was homosexually active, I would argue even more so than current societies, and you do a great job of drawing those realities out. Why do you suppose none of those cultures supported or condoned the marital union of these relationships? What role do you suppose ancient Greek and Roman views on the family as the fabric of society play into not condoning same-sex marriage?

3- What about life? – You reference Genesis often in your book, and briefly talk about the “be fruitful and multiply” issue. What role does life play in God’s created order, specifically regarding human sexuality? As a pastor who regular addresses issues of contraception, masturbation, and oral sex as contrary to God’s design for human sexuality due primarily to their inability to create life, which is inextricably bound with God’s design for sexuality throughout scripture, how would you address the inability to ever create life among homosexuals?thCA4IVDGX

To find these questions antagonistic, is to miss the point. We cannot shy away from the harder questions when addressing cultural issues, and I genuinely would like Matthew and anyone engaged in these issue to give thoughtful consideration to these questions. I believe, as Matthew does, in the reality that Christ is the enthroned King (Eph. 1:20). I also believe the Holy Spirit’s reality in the New Covenant differs from that of the Old Covenant in that now all of God’s people are filled with His spirit permanently. The Old Covenant continually shows us a Spirit that was fleeting and temporal to accomplish God’s plan in the world. Jesus as the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-21) not only did what Adam could not, He gives His spirit to His people to fulfill the original out working of a faithful Adam, to subdue and have dominion over the Earth. To create Heaven on Earth if you will. This means I’m for societies progress as, if we’re honest, we all claim to be.

 

Patience without white flags

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MWhite Flag 1any of us give in too quickly to the ebbs and flows of growing relationships. One moment a relationship fires on all cylinders, the next moment it’s a wreck, or so it seems. That’s normal, but too many of us mistake that for abnormality. You think you’re an animal lover? Try freeing one from a trap. Try picking up a wounded animal so you can tend to its wounds. We are all relationally wounded at different levels. Love is willing to be bitten to help the one biting. Here are three ways I’ve found to be helpful in bandaging the wounded.

1- Patience – Healing isn’t going to happen overnight, and often the person you’re caring for is going to see you as the enemy too. The wounded bite and those bites can come across as hurtful things said and done. Be patient. Know that their reacting to pain. Know you’re sticking it out is critical to their health.

2- Don’t say stupid things – You have to know when it’s time to stretch the person’s comfort zone. There is a time to sympathize and empathize with theCaged hurting, but there is also a time of gentle persuasion to think and act differently. During this stretching you could experience some pretty harsh reaction. Some reactions so harsh, had you done that to them, they would have been appalled. Stay with them, and continue to patiently care for them.

3- Practice silence – During this process, you will experience silence at times. It’s normal for a person working through a range of emotions to try cutting you out of their lives. Be wise, and intentionally be there for them in the silence. Maybe an occasional text, call, or letter. It’s important that they know you’re there, even if they are angry at your helping them heal.

 

Why?

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Question 1We have few boxes for children who question deeply. Growing up I recall being told that we do not ask God why. That provoked only one question in my mind. Why? This question has formed and molded me. The more deeply we question the more legitimate the answers. I questioned deeply if there was a God. I question deeply if that God is best understood in Jesus. I questioned deeply nuances of my faith. The questioner frustrates the answerer, and why shouldn’t they. You asked a question and they gave the answer. That’s it, right? Not for the questioner.

My middle daughter asked just the other day during morning devotional, “Dad, what if I don’t believe God is real”. She asks this question a lot, in different ways. Fortunately for her she’s not asking someone who just read about the answer or heard it in a lecture. I have breathed in this question and exhaled a journey of answers. She’s not asking a rookie questioner. You cannot hide the flame of questions under anything that it will not soon burn through, so I answer her. I answer be asking better questions. I help her to ask herself if there are other areas of her life that rely entirely on faith. I recall one morning when she said, “gravity”. I believe in gravity, dad. Question 3There are certainly more examples and she will find them as she questions. She didn’t learn an answer that morning more than she learned how to question well.

We have determined that the exceptional among us can ingest information and regurgitate it on command, which makes me wonder if the ability to recall information is the pinnacle of intelligence at all. Computers, with all their intelligence can only give you what you ask it too, so who is truly the most intelligent, the one regurgitating or the one provoking the regurgitation through asking the better question.

7 simple words that wreck world views

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truth 2“I don’t believe in God”, I hear it all the time. The reality is, we all believe in God, but many have assumed the divine role for themselves. I’ll often ask how they know what’s true. Some will suppose they can simply dismiss this question with a quick-witted quip of believing truth is “to each his/her own”. Believing truth is found by the person, within the person, and applied only to the person. “Do you believe that’s true for everyone”, I ask. 7 simple words that wreck this world view. You cannot escape objective truths. Objective truths exist, we all presuppose them daily, and they cannot originate from the individual and maintain objectivity.

Some will even admit believing in truth apart from God. When asked how they know things to be true, the answer always narrows to senses truthand reasoning. When asked how they know there senses and reasoning are valid, they generally recognize that it is by their senses and reasoning that their senses and reasoning are validated. Recognizing that to have major irreconcilable circularity, the next remark is often “Well, how do you know your sense and reasoning are valid”. Well, the answer is found outside of us, in God. God has communicated truth to the world in Jesus, and that communication is kept via the bible.

A God like me: Rethinking Easter

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The picture of a cowering Jesus in the garden and on the cross plugs awkwardly into the Jesus tradition. Stories of joyfully singing martyrs spilling their lives to follow Jesus appears to be a divergence from Jesus’ own experience, and that has always bothered me.Cup

All we know of Jesus life was His knowing that He came to die. The Gospels are littered with this reality. The very writing structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is moving the reader toward this event in Jerusalem. He rebukes Peter for attempting to stop it. He resists Satan’s temptation to have it happen differently. He spoke often of His hour, and He knew the time of His hour, or death, had come. He knew the Old Testament, so He even knew how it was going to happen and that it had to happen. It’s a fact that He stressfully agonized in the Garden. Bearing the weight of the world’s separation from God would be unimaginably agonizing, but I’m not convinced that at this pivotal moment, Jesus gets cold feet. If he does, at least how we’ve understood it, He becomes the biggest hypocrite in all of History, and that’s not the Jesus I know. That’s not the Jesus we need.

“We don’t need a God who is like us, we need one who is like God.”

What if the cup did “pass” as Jesus asked. We assume that “pass” means “not happen”, but the Greek expression “pass”, can also mean “to come and go quickly”. A person could spend a few days dying on a Roman cross, but Jesus death within six hours surprised the executioners into using methods to validate His death. Dying on a cross within six hours was astonishing. To add greater complexity, the author of Hebrews referring back to this time, implies that His garden prayer was indeed answered (Heb. 5:7). The cup, as the author of Hebrews suggests, did come and go quickly.

“In our attempt to connect Jesus to humanity, we tend to make Him too human.”

We move the reluctant savior to the cross and hear Him cry out to God asking why He has been forsaken. We have good intentions in humanizing Jesus. We want to portray a God like us, but I find little comfort in a God like me. Jesus is doing from the cross what He did in life, intentionally making sense of God’s communication to His people. He’s quoting Psalm 22. Later in this same Psalm we see a picture of crucifixion some hundreds of years before it was a Roman practice. Psalm 22 ends with a picture of the New World of humanity being in covenant with Jesus. The author solidifies this reality by encouraging the reader to see that “He has performed it”, or “It is finished”.

“We need a willing God, for an unwilling humanity to flourish.”

Wanting to hate Noah

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thCAOPT9UL3I walked into the theater ready to hate this movie, but I loved it. At so many of Aronofsky’s turns I was asking myself permission to hate now, but I never could. I could not believe that I’d sat in the back of the theater hoping to formulate a vile opinion all the while finding myself near tears at least twice during the story. Once in Noah’s spying out the savagery surrounding him, an animal appearing to be a goat or lamb was tossed to the virulent crowd. They tore and ate the beast before it even hit the ground and all I saw was Christ. Upon his return from this exploration, his wife made reference to “their” wickedness. Noah looks at her with a sort of shocked regret and says, “the evil of man is not just in them, it’s in us all”.

I was disappointed, not in Noah, but in me. How could so many in my circles much smarter, wiser, and learned than I proclaim such a spectrum of disdain for a movie that had brought me to tears. Maybe we were looking for different things. I didn’t go expecting a recitation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis in some liturgical display of literature, rather I went hoping to experience something a bit more human. We can find the woven themes of grace in Breaking Bad, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Vampires, Zombies, and the like, but not here, not with what Aronofsky has done. And so it is, the three-letter stigmata of my being emerges, why? I’m struck by the ease of sway given to young Christians, maybe more specifically in academia, that seem to have merely a muted voice, if any unique voice at all to embrace as their own. They seem only to be able to regurgitate thoughts thought for them, and it isn’t simply in these circles but in the greater breadth of Christianity as well. The sort of do your secular vocation and we’ll do the intellectual heavy lifting. Thank you, but I believe I’ll carry my own bags.

God spoke, and one man’s obedience has brought life from death. That is the essence of Aronofky’s Noah, and I adore the story because that is the story of Jesus.

Stop moving the comma, and change the sentence

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thBY3W14RFI am often dumbfounded at attempts to achieve different results by essentially doing the same stuff. No matter our world, we are never going to get results we hope for by simply moving the comma. It looks like this. He guys, we were doing this, but now let’s do this differently.

 

It should look like this. Hey guys, we did this, let’s try that. I’ve been in the world of business and church, and I see it in both worlds at equally ridiculous levels. We want customers in our stores, so let’s take the over priced merchandise and dance around with it. It’s still over priced. Churches want to “reach” their community, so we form committees and focus groups that ask the wrong questions and come to the same grey and self-centered conclusions.

Sentences do not fundamentally change, when we move the comma. I’ll say it again. Sentences, do not fundamentally change when we move the comma. You simply change the emphasized area of the bad idea you’re perpetuating.

The art of hiding (People)

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Hiding“Let’s be honest, some people haven’t figured out the social part of social media.” A friend once debated whether to take a hiatus from social media or just delete a person that just made their skin crawl. “Hide them”, I said. It’s that simple, just hide them. We’re often in situations that we cannot just delete a person without some awkwardness to follow. I’ve hidden people for short periods of time, and I’ve some friends that have been hidden for a long time. They’re still friends, I just cannot watch so many train wrecks at once. I’m sure people have hidden me. Heck, I often annoy myself. Hiding someone is like walking away from a conversation at a party. You don’t really dislike the person, you guys are just different enough to annoy each other more often than not. Deleting a person is like telling someone to get out. That’s an awkward party moment and creates tension and division among friends you both probably Hiding 2share.

You deserve to be hidden when:

1- You’re constantly pessimistic.

2- Things that should stay in your head, come out your finger tips.

3- You’ve found a soap box, and you keep finding it, in every post.

“In hiding a friend or two, you’re simply sending them to their rooms to think about what they’ve posted.”

Dropping stones

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Throwing StonesFamilies fight, some much worse than others. They fight because they’re born into a community not of their choosing and because each person in this natural-born community is, well, a person and an individual with all the personality and life that comes with that. The only way I knew to deal with the tension of family when I was younger was to run away, and once I was far enough, I began casting stones. It took way too long to realize that God put me in my family to be a part of my family.

Christianity is no different it seems, and I wonder if we’re learning the lessons of family. Here’s the way it seems to work. Someone in the family does something bizarre. The group that’s appalled distances themselves, turns, and begins casting what amounts to social media stones. I get it. It’s safe and requires much less energy to throw a stone than to place it gently and thoughtfully into a mosaic.

How do we disagree and remain family?

1- You are family- We have to cast off the presumption that the bizarre behavior takes us out of our family bond. This is the presumption that fuels everything else. We think, “They did this or that, they must not be part of the family”. Get it wrong here, and nothing else matters.

2- Talk to, not about- If it’s big enough an issue to break unity, then it’s certainly big enough to get up the gumption to go to them and personally ask Stonesthem to explain.

3- It’s not all about you- Realize that you’re angry disconnection from family will not be worked out alone. My guess is people are following you, and often blindly and unquestioning.

4- PRIDE- We think giving up our stones is weakness. They hurt us or the family, and now we’ll show them. If God can put on the stench of humanity, I believe you and I can put on the stench of humility and concern for our family.

5- Resolve to stay family- Jesus stood his ground in the midst of spit, slaps, and nails.

“The only issue that breaks us, is the one we allow to.”

This is why you’re anxious

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thUC42X1VR“You’re not there yet.”

Telling someone the bible says not to be anxious in hopes of jarring them out of anxiety is like giving a lost person directions by simply telling them they’re not there yet. It’s true but it isn’t the whole story.

“It’s about volume control.”

Anxiety works on two controls. What’s possible and what’s livable. When you can cycle through a high amount of possible life outcomes and all are very unlivable in your world, you are going to have major life anxiety.

Imagine at birth the volume of possible outcomes is turned way down. As life progresses, that volume naturally increases. For some it increases rapidly and vividly. Some, because of media and personal influences and situation, can imagine an infinite number of life possibilities. This volume has become way to loud for them. Everyone hates me, what if this car crashes into us, every shadow is a monster, what if my heart stops beating, these are just a few examples.

At the same time, you have the volume of things you cannot bear to live with. These two work in unison to have us thinking, these are possibilities and I cannot bear the th4VNVPF9Athought of any of them being true.

“The music is too loud to dance.”

These two volumes cause us to dance through life in very different ways. If both volumes are very loud, I’m going to be anxious, angry, aggregated, fearful, reclusive, and immobile. If they are way to low, I’ll be careless, lazy, indifferent, sad, and lethargic.

“The great equalizer.”

Joy is found in life when we are balancing these two volumes with faith filled accuracy. The first volume to be adjusted is the livable volume. You have to begin to increasingly accept what life has to offer by knowing it’s making me a better person, it’s all for a reason, and eventually I will be able to help someone in my situation some day (Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 1:3-7).

 

 

Green God

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th86BW2XMNThe prospect of worlds end fascinates millions. The idea is so prevalent it’s become more of a presupposition for humanity, and we seem only to be left wondering how and when. Some say it just winds to a close, some say humanity will use it up, and other think Jesus is coming back to blow it up like the death star. So it boils down to it kills itself, we kill it, or Jesus does. So who cares?

If it winds to a close, then it’s rather pointless to care for it. If its destruction is at the hand of humanity, then your ultimate fix ends with ridding the Earth of humans. If Darth Jesus is coming back to blow it up, then you would want no attachment to the Earth what so ever because Jesus only blows up bad things.

A novel idea might be to stop consulting novels and novices for our ideas surrounding this issue. So, what does God say about the Earth? Well, He says it will last forever (Ps. 104:5, 148:6, Ec. 1:4). Wouldn’t it just make sense that Christians should out thYPT4TL9Wcare anyone on this eternal rock when it comes to caring for said rock. We believe he created it (Is. 45:18). We believe it will last forever. We believe it will be filled with his glory (Dan. 2:35). We might want to make it a priority to care for it. Not because it will dissolve like a salted snail if we don’t, rather because it honors the one we claim to worship.

Giving up lent for lent

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thJKHVXLAHBeginning Ash Wednesday, lent continues roughly 40 days up until Easter. Marked by giving up life snares, it can be a great time of self-evaluation. Here’s how you can totally miss the purpose of lent:

1- You could give up wrong things. It’s popular to quit social media for a season, and that’s no different during lent. To quit social media is to misunderstand what it is. A layer of communication, similar to the phone so many years ago. Stopping connecting with people may be counter intuitive to what lent is trying to produce in us. Further puzzling is the comment I’ve seen continually from those who’ve given up social media for a season, “Well, I’m back. It’s time for me to get caught up on what I missed”. I shouldn’t have to say much more on how absurd that is. You could certainly give up being a social media train wreck for lent.

2- You could resume what you gave up. At least in a “Business as usual” way. If it’s worth giving up for 40 days, my guess is it may be best to give up for a lifetime. I’m not certain I’ve completely understood giving up self-proclaimed snares with the expressed intent on picking them up again. If it’s an idol for you, give it up for good.

3- You could think lent is about chocolate. The 40 days of lent sort of represents Jesus’ obedient triumph over the 40 days of wilderness temptations, which eventually enables you and I to be more like Jesus. You could give up things without giving in to remembering Jesus. N. T. Wright has a wonderful devotion to carry you through lent entitle, “Lent for Everyone”. Don’t give up anything before you give in to knowing Jesus more deeply.

4- You could give up things totally. We think the cure for giving into things is to give up on things. You’re not Holy if you can quit eating cake. You’re Holy if you can eat it moderately. You typically see this behavior with alcohol. Those who’ve abused alcohol, find the answer to their abuse is abstinence. Ancient cultures like Greco-Roman’s looked at total abstinence on the same level as total drunkenness. Both were seemed immature and highlighted an immature lack of self-control.

I love lent as a time to reflect on being more like Jesus, but I’m just not comfortable with temporary sanctification. Make this lent season mean more than ever before by giving up some of your misconceptions of it.

Theological thumb twittling

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thGIFUWSQVAdam had a mission that Satan ruined (Gen. 3), and there came a time when the second Adam, Jesus, underwent similar enticement (Matt. 4, Rom. 5:12-21). Satan enticed Jesus to stop doing what Adam failed to do; have dominion, or be the King He was supposed to be (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 2), which would enable his posterity to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28, Rom. 8:16).

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this witty and witless exchange of “God said this. No. God actually said this”, which is no less just like the Eden scene of Adam’s failure. We grasp feverously, and quite unsuccessfully at times, to make sense of these parallel scenes. First Satan wants Jesus to live (Matt. 4:1-4), then he wants Jesus to die (Matt. 4:5-7), and finally he wants Jesus to rule (Matt. 4:8-11). All true, and eventually happen, by God’s design not Satan’s.

Now that Jesus is King enthroned at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:18-23), the redeemed design for the world continues through the people of God as the spiritual posterity or children of God (Rom. 8:16). Enabled through the now all-encompassing and filling spirit of God (Gen. 4:6), we now become the mountain Kingdom that fills the Earth and never ends (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45).

Here’s were most of us become theological thumb twittlers. We have no idea about what all that means for us right now. We suppose our only role in the story is to sit and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. God did fix everything, by obediently sacrificing Himself (Heb. 7). God didn’t die to give you His spirit, simply so you could have warm fuzzies about your lot in life and a date to fill in the first pages of your bible. No, He changed the entire nature of the “Holy Spirit” for a purpose, and that purpose is to finish what He started at that cross, having dominion and subduing the world, and will return to receive what His spirit wrought in the world through His children, a Kingdom fit for a King (1 Cor. 15:24-25). Most of us don’t believe this Theology, but most of us admit it with our life. It may be time to have our life and theology agree.

Kissing the son

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KissingMany Christians cannot answer the question, “What is Jesus doing now”, but it’s this very question that clues us into an accurate view of the King and His kingdom. Jesus became the faithful son as opposed to the unfaithful sons, Adam and Israel. In his faithfulness God enthroned Him as King of the world. In a perpetual display of His authority and God’s glory in enthroning Him, the world that Adam lost dominion over and whose posterity could not subdue, Christ gains dominion and begins His subduing reign at the right hand of God via His spiritual posterity.

The peace, or shalom, that Israel was supposed to bring to the world categorizes the very nature of His subduing effects. An accurate view of the King and His kingdom calls everyone, as the Psalmist does, to kiss the son lest He be angry. Kissing the son is a world viewing submission and admission to the rule of the King. Not submitting to His rule and taking refuge under His kingly protection, according to the psalmist, gets you wrathfully subdued. Not a place you want to be.

Moreover, we see all are being subdued. In what most would say to be a grand Kissing 2and concise portrait of the gospel, Paul says, “then comes the end, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

“How is this happening”, must be our next question. Jesus is raising us from the spiritual dead, giving us new life, a new heart, and the spirit of His son within us. The spirit of God which is making us and the world a different place. No matter how long it takes to repair the damage that was done to the world, the kings spirit in us is gradually accomplishing its reversal. Not until you believe this, will you have the rewardably active faith in and around your community that the king so longs to see.

Judas, whether aware of the depths of his treacherous mocking, mocks Jesus with His betraying Kiss in a show of superficial submission and hollow admittance that Jesus is indeed the king of psalm 2. Much like that of Caiaphas the high priest admitting that it would be better for one man to die for the people (John 11:29). So, one man did die for the people, and that one man rose to be King, worthy of our true and holy kiss. May we stop kissing the son in disbelief as Judas, lest He be angry.

Thank God for atheist do-gooders

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AtheistYou know that list of people you just “Cannot work with”? It may need to get a lot shorter. Recently, I shared a community outing experience that left one or two of my listeners wondering how I could work with an atheist. It’s easy. The same way I work with hyper-religious people. I remember that imperfect people are helping other imperfect people.

I’m left wondering what would we rather atheist do? If we’re angry because they are doing good things in their communities, would we be satisfied if they were doing bad things. Maybe we’re just so stunned that they’re doing good things that it cracks open the egg of our worldview and makes us take a deeper look inside. Is it completely inconsistent with their beliefs that they are doing good things in their community, I believe it is. Do I tell them that every time we help together? No.

Atheist1When do you suppose you’re going to get a chance to be around atheist in an influencing way? When they come to church? When you debate them on-line? At work where talking religion is generally taboo? I’m a Jesus follower, so I’m going to be about doing good things, and atheist hands can callous just as easily as mine as we help other imperfect people.

 

Rethinking tithe

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tithe“75% to 85% of church budgets go to staff and buildings, but what if it didn’t?”

In his frustration, a pastor once told me the day was coming when even volunteers will be paid in the church. Every mavericky bone in my body wanted to challenge him to lead by example, stop taking a salary. So I decided to do just that. As a pastor and church starter, I will never receive a salary from my church, nor will anyone in leadership. There will also never need to be a building “committee” to build the gym that every church seems to need to be holy because we will recreate space that already exists in and around our community. I’ll work right along side those I Shepard. Maybe a teacher, mechanic, firefighter, lawyer, dishwasher or something of the sort.

“Pass the plate, so we can pass the plate.”

When people give, as no doubt the bible does teach, it will be intentionally directed toward the community and what the community has told us that it needs. There are so many doing so much good for the city, and we want to support them to fulfill their mission. Someone asked me at a recent conference how I managed to do all these things when it takes them 20 hours a week to prepare for a sermon. My first thought was “Really!”. It takes you 20 hours to prepare? It takes you 20 hours to prepare for a 40 minute sermon that will be forgotten 30 minutes later. I’m not certain that’s a good investment of time, and I’m also unsure you’re maximizing your resources.

“Get ready for deeper declines in giving.”

Most research shows tithe is declining to all time lows, and I’m inclined Givingto think its more than the typical scapegoat of the “Bad economy”. Maybe, people are becoming more skeptically exhausted with how we’ve financially operated. You see, everyone knows the church is supposed to be a bright spot in the city, yet we are often too strapped with burdensome staff wages and building costs to actually light up anything but the gym on Wednesdays.

I’m not so naive to think this is for everyone, but it is for me. It’s an expression of church in the ever-growing city sector that brings great glory to Jesus and violates no orthodoxy. It’s quite simply an expression of my beliefs. Which, we all do express.

On-line verses On-campus?

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OnlineEducation is complex, but staples to a well learned student persist. They persist in the ever-growing arguments pitting online and on campus modes of educating against one another. I’ve done both, and I’ve found most argue for their chosen path seated from their favorite recliner of experience, including me. So, I’ll attempt to explore this topic from a love seat.

“Don’t miss this!”

Learning at its core, is up to the student. It is truly that simple. If the student wants to learn, they will. From the back of the room, I’ve watch a majority of students pass the class time tooling around on Facebook, and I’ve seen them totally engaged. I’ve completed less than the bare essentials required from an online class, and I’ve taken time to dive into deeper study. I used to devour leadership books, not because I was in an MBA course but because I was tired of being a poor leader.

“Environments make a difference.”

I’ve been in classes that were so poorly administrated that I had to force my self to a greater attention. That’s a little to kind. I have literally had to keep myself from plunging out a window. That’s better. Not just due to the teaching, rather the entire discontinuity of the entire class. I’ve been in others that I didn’t want to leave. I’ve taken online classes that excited my further study, and I’ve had others that I wasn’t sure what was what and were to start and end.

“The destruction of scholarship?”

Online certainly destroys scholarship, right? No, poor scholars and poor students destroy scholarship. I’ve been in classes, both on campus and online, that left me wondering if we were all reading the same book, and others that left me amazed at the deep dialogue that occurred.

“Intimacy forgone.”

Online isn’t as intimate as the classroom, right? No, intimacy is at the whim of the student and teacher. I’ve stood in a line to speak to a scholar after a lecture just to give up with other students as “that guy” in front of us has to discuss everything they’ve ever learned in life. In both cases, intimacy generally came from email. Certainly there is more peer-to-peer interaction, right? Sure, once the hours lecture is over, and the 5 students who ask question that were answered in the lecture 30 minutes ago, that leave just enough time to stand in line to gain some intimate time with the scholar and peers, oh wait.

Are you a stifling leader?

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Micro“Sitting in a closed garage with the engine running.”

That is micro-managing leadership. I remember thinking, “Is that what I act like”, the first experience I had with a micro-manager after having been one myself. The micro-manager has two fatal flaws. They fundamentally do not believe in or care for their people. Oh, it may seem different on the surface, but just underneath is a different story. When you don’t believe in or care for your people, here’s what you’ll do:

1- You will not allow them to make you look bad. If you do actually give them the lead on something that matters, you’ll hover over their every move to make sure they do it just like you.

2- You’ll never move past how the weather is. You live in the world of superficial niceties because they only exist to get what you need done, so you can look good for that next promotion.

3- You’ll have a general pessimism about what they can never seem to get done. What do your personnel meetings look like. Are they always about who stinks and how to get rid of them, or who’s an all-star and how to reproduce them. Both extremes are self-serving. You should know all your people’s strengths and weaknesses, and you should know where you hope they will be next in their progress as humans, not just your worker drones.

4- You’ll be generally disgruntled most of the time. Why wouldn’t you be. You’re the only one who knows how to do anything right, right?

They became leaders because things they could control were done well, but they aren’t quite sure why everyone isn’t just like them when it comes to leading others. So there they sit, leading in a closed garage with the engine running. It’s only a matter of time…

99.9% Average

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Average“Chances are you’ll die, well, not so famous.”

It’s likely the world isn’t going to miss you. It’s safe to say History books will be written without you. These may not be the grandiose terms we day-dream in, but the reality is we’ll all die just having been average people.

“What we can be is above average, well, average people.”

Fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, friends, acquaintances, workers, and the like, all impact someone. Research continues to tell us that deep lasting impact happens in small communities, from 3 to 12 people.

“Impact should be seen in concentric circles.”

I influence and impact my children more deeply than my friends, but I impact my friends more deeply than the guy at the convenience store. We are all connected, but we are more tightly connected the further into our circles we travel.

People travel in and out of the circles, and that’s normal. Whether its children heading off to college, coworkers changing careers, or friendships fading on the horizon, there is continual movement between the circles of influence. Most of our relationships are just average people living life together. What seems to make us above average in this quest, is realizing and pouring ourselves unselfishly into these communities of influence.

Prodigal Father

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father“I forgive you.”

I wanted to mean them, but those whispered words I didn’t really mean. The moment didn’t allow me to marinate in the pain he allowed to fester over the years. I simply held his hand and whispered I forgive you father. I forgive you for a wasted life, unconcerned about anyone but you. How does one man squander so many blessings? After leaving that night, it wasn’t but a few hours later that I received the call that he was dead. A man who would, in the limited time I knew him, speak so highly of a firm handshake, had no firmness left in his hands. At forty-three, he hadn’t just drank himself to death, he had loved himself to death.

“Father’s forgive father’s.”

It wasn’t until I grew into my on fatherhood that I could begin to experience a real forgiving of him. Forgiveness doesn’t forget, rather it remembers to forgive more deeply. We’ve all heard it, I forgive but cannot forget. There is a partial truth there. We are creatures designed to remember. It’s how we remember that reveals something about us.

“We’re all dying fathers.”

I often see myself lying there dying having squandered my fatherhood, and I certainly have done just that on many occasions. I’ve often allowed myself to be carried away with me. Comparing our worth and excellence as fathers to fathers around us always leads to a distorted view of your own fatherhood. Somehow this allows us to see ourselves as doing and being so much more than they did and were. It’s not until we see our fatherhood in the shadow of Christ that we truly see ourselves as missing the fatherly mark more often than not. We’re able then to run out to meet the prodigal fathers around us with true forgiveness. Knowing that Jesus grace has indeed ran out to lavish us with love and mercy, we can do the same.

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